The University of Washington Men’s Basketball team has quietly surged out to a 6-0 record in conference play. This is the best start this program has had in a long time.
But who are these guys and what fueled this quick turnaround? Two years-ago UW basketball was in a terrible state. The team constantly finished towards the bottom of the conference and the NCAA tournament was an afterthought.
However, in a blink of an eye this all changed.
The change started at the top when UW hired Mike Hopkins as their head coach. Hopkins was a long-time assistant coach at Syracuse University and learned behind legendary coach Jim Boeheim.
Hopkins took some of his predecessor’s philosophies and quickly applied them to his new program.
The biggest and most immediate change was the defense. He took Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone and implemented it in to his new program. The Dawgs immediately found success under their new defensive scheme and finished the season last year 21-13 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12.
He also understands that the zone is not the be all, end all to success and he is not afraid to switch to a man to man defense when new energy is needed.
On the offensive end of the court the Dawgs now play a fast-paced team-oriented brand of basketball. The ball is constantly moving and many different players touch the ball and score on a consistent basis.
Last year the Huskies had four players average more than ten points per game.
These new-found strategies have carried over to this year’s squad and the team looks better than ever.
When looking at UW’s record this year three out of their four losses have come at the hands of ranked opponents. They lost by two to then ranked number one Gonzaga, lost by 22 to then ranked eleventh Auburn, and lost by twelve to then ranked number 13 Virginia Tech.
UW’s only questionable non-conference loss was to the University of Minnesota who is currently 4-4 in Big-12 play. This is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Huskies record currently stands at 15-4 and as previously mentioned 6-0 in conference play.
This is the first time that UW has had a real chance to make the NCAA tournament in quite some time.
Even though Hopkins appears to be a great coach, you need more than just coaching to win games, you also need talented players.
This year’s Huskies roster has a solid core of Seniors and a very talented Sophomore that play in cohesion.
The Dawgs best all-around player is Senior Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle is a defensive stud and a potential NBA player. Last year he won the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award. He has the ability to lock-down any wing player in the conference. He is essentially the Kawhi Leonard of the Pac-12 with a worse offensive game.
He is currently averaging a blistering 2.7 steals per game, and 2.3 blocks.
On offensive Thybulle needs to continue to develop his skills. He has great athleticism and height to be a scoring threat but he has not yet developed a consistent touch around the rim. Furthermore, he is an inconsistent three-point shooter which allow defenses to sag off of him. He needs to continue working on his shot to be a decent NBA player.
He currently shoots 31 percent from beyond the arc.
The Huskies best scoring threat is Sophomore Jaylen Nowell. Nowell stands at 6-4 and has an offensive IQ wise beyond his years. He uses the mid-range game to his advantage and can make a variety of shots from ten to 15 feet.
The reason he is so difficult to guard from 15 and in is because he makes contested shots, can shoot off the dribble, and has the speed to blow by defenders.
My dudes got the old man game on lock.
Beyond his mid-range, he has an improved longball that he will make if left unguarded.
He currently averages 16.8 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists.
All in all, he is a complete offensive player that still has room to develop. If he continues to improve his three-point shooting and gets more athletic he will be an NBA draft pick in a couple of years.
UW’s best big man this year is Senior Noah Dickerson. Dickerson is a strong bodied Senior who uses his physicality to his advantage. From about 10 feet and in he has a variety of awkward hook, and push shots that he somehow manages to make on a regular basis. But most importantly the man likes to dunk the ball.
If a defender does not put a body on him down-low he is going to slam the ball with ferocity.
In terms of his defense he is not the most athletic player. Other skilled big man around the conference will be able to score on him in the post-game.
He is not NBA material, but he is a very solid power forward at the collegiate level. Nevertheless, he’s the best big man on the Dawgs roster and his veteran leadership is invaluable.
He is currently averaging 13.1 points per game on 56 percent from the field.
The last player on this year’s Huskies roster that I am going to highlight is David Crisp. Crisp is the energy guy that every good team needs.
He isn’t the most talented or intimidating player in the world but he just finds a way to make plays. He reminds me of Manu Ginobili at the college level.
He can finish weird lay-ups in traffic, make ugly looking three pointers, and get in the oppositions head.
There’s really nothing conventional about his style of play but he is the heartbeat of the Dawgs roster. As he goes the team goes.
When he is on his game every Pac-12 team will have a hard time beating UW.
He might be the least-talented player on this list but he is the most important player on the Huskies roster.
UW’s future also looks bright beyond this year. The Dawgs just landed a five-star recruit by the name of Isaiah Stewart. Stewart had the opportunity to play at the University of Kentucky, Duke, and other elite programs around the country, but he chose UW. This is an obvious sign that the program is headed in the right direction. He is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
The Huskies also acquired a former five-star recruit named Quade Green, via transfer, from the University of Kentucky. Green along with Stewart ensures that this is a new era of UW basketball.
The Dawgs quick turn around is awesome to watch and brings new life to a program that has been sleep-walking for too long.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the city of Seattle has an exciting basketball team to watch and this moment should not be taken for granted.