SEATTLE — Last Thursday marked the beginning of the 2018-19 season for the University of Washington Men’s Basketball team—just not on the court. Pac-12 media day for men’s hoops kicked off the upcoming season, and, along with coaches from the rest of the conference, Mike Hopkins was able to address the media about what the summer has held for his squad.
Coach Hopkins covered a lot in his 31-minute press conference, but, now a week removed, the biggest thing that stands out is his perspective on the NCAA tournament. When asked of what he’s imagining as the big picture and what a successful year two would look like, Hopkins responded, “How can we put our team, or give our team the best chance at a national championship, and that’s getting into the NCAA tournament”.
He then spoke of scheduling and upgrading the games played out of conference, acknowledging that strength of schedule is incredibly important in earning a chance at a title. “(We’d rather not) be 24-9 and win the NIT. We would rather be 18-15 and play in the (NCAA tournament).” In doing so, he hopes to give the NCAA committee more reasons to consider Washington as a true candidate.
Last season’s successes, regardless of strength of opponents, has turned some heads nationwide. Washington has found itself ranked No. 25 in the preseason AP poll. This marks the first time the team has been ranked in the preseason since the 2009-10 campaign.
It didn’t take long for the team to prove it deserved it, either.
The team traveled to Reno this past weekend to play in a charity exhibition against a No. 7 Nevada team, and they delivered. Down by one heading into the second half, the Huskies took control for the rest of the game. Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell led the team in scoring with 26, and forward Matisse Thybulle came alive, ending his game with a 17/6/6 line and adding five steals and three blocks for good measure. Bryan Penn-Johnson, the four-star recruit from Las Vegas, scored four points in his debut.
It certainly is far too early to start talking of tournaments, Final Four’s, and national titles, but this team is starting to show signs of being a true contender. I know I’m looking forward to another year of this team growing within Coach Hopkins’ culture, and I can’t imagine they will be slowing down anytime soon.