What’s Going Wrong With The Washington Huskies?

Before this hoops season began, the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team was supposed to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12, if not the entire country. I thought they were headed to the Final Four.

The combination of incoming freshmen Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, mixed with returning players such as Nahziah Carter and transfer Quade Green, appeared to be a surefire hit. However, something has gone wrong in Montlake. 

UW’s overall record currently stands at 12-7 with a head-scratching 2-4 in conference and they’re in 11th place in the Pac-12 … what gives?

The easy answer is that the freshmen stars are not ready for the spotlight just yet, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Stewart is averaging 18.3 points per game, 9.0 rebounds, and shooting just below 58 percent from the field. His prowess under the basket is unmatched by most players throughout the country.

With a player his talent level, the Dawgs should have no problem beating in-conference foes such as UCLA, Cal, and even Stanford. He is an absolute stud and a virtual lock to be an NBA lottery pick, but still, the Huskies continuously find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

One thing’s for sure, he not the problem.

Another theory that my Dad proposed is that McDaniels is not quite ready for the college game.

Based off his hype, he has not performed to the level he is capable of, but by the numbers he’s having a darn good year for a freshman. He’s currently averaging 13.1 PPG, 6.4 rebounds, and a block and a half per.

Are those astronomical stats? No. But it should be enough to get the job done especially since he’s paired alongside Stewart in the frontcourt.

One area where McDaniels could improve is on the defensive side of the ball. Even though he is averaging over one block and one steal per game, he has not shown to be a consistent defender.

At the collegiate level, defensive stats can prove deceiving. Sometimes it’s not about how many electrifying plays, it’s about forcing the opponent into bad shots on a consistent basis. He’s not developed this portion of his game, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can improve by year’s end.

With that being said, it’s unfair to blame him for Washington’s early-season struggles. Any freshman who is shooting a reasonable percentage (40.7 percent from the field) and averaging over 13 PPG is doing his job. Not everyone can have next-level productivity like Stewart.

Soo… what is it?

One of my personal beliefs in that Head Coach Mike Hopkins is too committed to his 2-3 zone. Look, I get it, the zone almost single-handedly took UW to the Sweet 16 last season. It was the driving force behind arguably the most feared defense in the conference.

Nevertheless, the Dawgs don’t have the same players they had last year—most notably, the loss of Matisse Thybulle, the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.

Dude Hopkins he’s gone … yadadasaying?

Thybulle struck fear into opponents before they ever took foot on the court. His presence is nearly impossible to emulate.

But Washington retooled this year’s roster with many athletic players in their own right. From an athletic standpoint, they are still one of the most talented teams in the Pac-12.

These able-bodied young men could benefit from a straight man-to-man defense.

The muscular frame of Stewart accompanied by the wingspan of McDaniels would likely be a fearsome duo in the paint. Combine this with pressure up top by the guards, and most teams in the conference would probably struggle to find good shots.

A man-to-man scheme could also force more turnovers, make it easier to rebound, and ignite a thrilling fast break attack.

But that’s just my two sense.

Whatever is going wrong in Seattle is realistically a combination of factors. Luckily for UW, it’s still early in the season and they have plenty of time to turn it around. But if they don’t, this could go down and one of the most overhyped teams in NCAA history … and nobody wants that prestigious honor.

About Nick Bartlett 122 Articles
Hello there ya wild rabbits. My name is Nick Bartlett and I’m a sportswriter, broadcast manager, and youth basketball coach. I’m from the Greater Seattle Area and a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow school at Washington State University. I’ve had over 50 articles and 10 podcasts published in Seattle PI, and my work featured on OregonLive, SportsPac12, and South Florida Tribune. You can contact me at NB206wsu@gmail.com or on twitter @WordsByBartlett. Cheetos and Tuna.

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