We are now nine games into this young season, which means we can start to make qualified and quantified assessments of the team so far.
The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball team only has a few games left on their non-conference slate before they head into Pac-12 Conference play.
Head coach Mike Hopkins has assembled a talented roster this year and they have undoubtedly shown everyone how much “raw” potential they possess.
For such a young roster, with no experience playing together, pulling off the upset away from home, put the Huskies on the national roadmap.
While the Huskies have had their successful moments so far, they have also showed their “youth” and some “growing pains” as well.
There have been stretches and stints where putting the ball in the basket has been an issue during crucial moments of games.
Other challenges have arose for the Huskies, like turnovers, which can be a problem for a young basketball team trying to find continuity.
Defending the three point-shot consistently and finding the proper rotation to “close-out” on shooters quicker and defend has been an issue.
Finding consistent jump shooting from the outside has been a constant battle, more specifically from behind the arc.
The Huskies are “front heavy” with almost all of their firepower coming from the starting lineup. Hopkins is looking for more production off the bench on a nightly basis.
Hopkins and his staff are tasked with smoothing out the rough edges and adding “polish” to their game before we head into January.
While the Huskies suffered an 83-76 defeat this past week to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, they showed a lot of character and heart along the way!
“Our kids fought! That’s what I was really proud about! They really fought and I’m proud of them!” Hopkins said the other night after the Gonzaga game.
Going into the game against Gonzaga, Hopkins knew that the Bulldogs would present him with a measuring stick as to where his team is at.
“This is why you play these games to learn about your team. We’ve won one of the big one’s and we’ve lost two of the other opportunities. We just got to grow from it, we got to learn from it, we got to move forward and I know these games will benefit us in the long run for sure,” Hopkins said.
The atmosphere during the game was absolutely electric and the intensity felt like an NCAA Tournament game from start to finish.
Every time Gonzaga would extend their lead, the Huskies would fight right back and cut the lead down to a single possession game.
There were several opportunities for the Huskies to “get over the hump” and try and seal the deal, but youth entered into the picture.
“I was really proud of our guys. You know, we are still young, we made a couple young turnovers, but we fought,” Hopkins said.
One thing that is evidently clear, the huge gap between Gonzaga and Washington has vastly closed since Hopkins has taken over the Huskies.
“I think they’re really, really good! Like very good. As good as we’ve seen. Obviously, Michigan cut us up pretty good. But man, oh man,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said after the game.
Last season, the Huskies lost an 81-79 heartbreaker at “The Kennel” and this past week they lost another close contest at 83-76.
Both defeats happened at a combined 9 points which is a remarkable turnaround in this rivalry between the two in-state programs.
We are all left to wonder what “narrative” we would be talking about this week if the Huskies hadn’t committed 19 turnovers against an elite team.
“I felt like the difference in this game tonight was just the turnovers. You play a top ten team, you can’t have 19 turnovers and that was one of the things that prevented us from getting over the hump,” Hopkins said.
The Huskies are currently 7-2 on the season and moving towards a more “polished” product has yielded some positives lately.
True freshman Isaiah Stewart has proven that he is undoubtedly the “go-to-guy” this year and the other night against Gonzaga he had a “double-double” with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
His freshman star teammate Jaden McDaniels has found his “groove” and confidence over the last four games with scoring more efficiently and figuring out the speed of the college game.
Sophomore Quade Green over the last two games has really found the “perfect” balance of running Hopkins offense, while being aggressive himself and looking to score.
Over that two-game span, Green has had assist-to-turnover ratios of 8:1 and 8:3, which is outstanding is showing “growth” each and every game.
A huge “X-factor” for the Huskies this season has been junior guard Nahziah Carter. It seems that Carter is still trying to find his role on the team this season, with the new additions to the roster.
Carter has often waited for the game to come to him before being assertive, but he has proven time and time again that the Huskies cannot function without his aggressiveness, which provides a huge impact to the game.
“Sometimes I think he let’s the game come to him which is a good thing. Let’s see how they are going to defend us, let’s see how they are going to defend some of these plays,” Hopkins said.
The Huskies have this week off after playing their second “three-game” slate of the week this season. It will provide Hopkins and his staff time to watch film and evaluate the team.
Next week, the Huskies have one more non-conference game at home, before they head to Hawaii to compete in the “Diamond Head Classic” for a few games.
After that, the Pac-12 Conference play begins and the Huskies will have to play “polished” basketball to compete for a conference championship.
Learning to play “together” each and every night will determine just how far this season will go for Hopkins and the Huskies.
All the moving parts are obviously there for the Huskies to have a superb season, but right now the early product looks jagged.
By the middle of conference play, Hopkins will need to elevate that status to a semi-gloss “polish,” so that when March rolls around, and the Huskies are heading into postseason play, Hopkins will hope to be peaking at the right time with an ultra shiny “polished” product – ready to go deep into “The Dance.”
The Huskies gave it their all and learned a lot about themselves during their defeat against Gonzaga. I think we all learned a lot about the Huskies as well!
“This game will help us and we’ll have many more great moments here!” Hopkins said.
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