The Washington Huskies today released the finalized version of the Men’s Basketball schedule for the 2017-18 season. The schedule can be seen below along with last year’s national rank in their overall efficiency margin per kenpom.com. Home games are in bold.
The Dawgs don’t play a single true road game but will play three neutral site games of varying degrees of actual neutrality. The Huskies take part in the 2k Sports Classic which is held in Madison Square Garden on the 16th and 17th of November. The two day tournament involves a guaranteed matchup against Providence and then a game against either the winner or loser of the Virginia Tech and Saint Louis match depending upon whether the Huskies win their game. It will be the first game at MSG for UW since they also took part in the 2k Sports Classis in 2013 playing Indiana and Boston College. They also will play Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri which would be equivalent to if the game were played at the Tacoma Dome. It’s not on the Kansas campus but it’ll still be 99% Kansas fans at the game. Let’s examine a few of the intricacies of the schedule.
Best Home Game
Sunday, Dec. 10- Gonzaga
This one is an absolute no-brainer. Not only is this the best home game for this year but is possibly the best home game in decades. The Huskies never played a team that finished in the top-10 of kenpom’s efficiency margin at home during the entirety of Lorenzo Romar’s tenure. They did play Connecticut at Hec-Ed in 2014 when UConn went on to win the National Title but did so starting off as a 7-seed. Gonzaga lost a lot of talent off of last year’s runner-up squad but will still be quite good.
This will be the first time that Gonzaga has played the Dawgs at home since 2006 when the Huskies won a 99-95 thriller. That game also marks the last time that Washington has beaten Gonzaga period. UW will likely be a heavy underdog but this is a treat for the UW season ticket holders who have been denied a true “A” matchup at home for several years
Biggest Trap Game
Friday, Nov. 10- Belmont
The 2k Sports Classic technically kicks off with regional site games that UW hosts against Belmont and Eastern Washington. UW still gets to go to New York even if they should lose one of those games. And that’s not totally unrealistic. Belmont (they’re in Tennessee in case you were wondering) is a perennially good team that last year finished 1st in the nation in 2-pt field goal percentage. That should concern a Husky team that was not known for good interior defense last season albeit under a different head coach. Once again losing a home opener to a team from a one-bid conference would put a huge damper on the Coach Hop era and bring out cries of here we go again.
Tuesday, Dec. 19- Bethune-Cookman
It’s easy to look at a ton of tiny schools on the non-conference schedule and just assume that they’re all bad but Bethune-Cookman was truly terrible last season. They finished 328th in offensive efficiency and 335th in defensive efficiency so it’s not as if they could at least claim that they were much better in one aspect. They also played the 6th easiest schedule in the country to get to a final record of 10-22 that might sound just very bad rather than atrocious at first glance.
Final Schedule Grade
This is very much a studs and scrubs type of non-conference schedule which is fine given where UW is as a program. The Kansas and Gonzaga games will likely be massacres but at least they get an opportunity before conference play to see what an elite team looks like. Games against Belmont, Providence, and potentially Virginia Tech (who I expect to be a top-25 team) are all good challenges that will determine how the season shapes up. If they go 0-3 in those games then UW is in for another rough year and Hop will need more time to make a real difference. A 2-1 split is enough to suggest that the team could challenge for an NIT berth or bubble spot. If they were to go 3-0 then we can go ahead and put Hopkins’ picture up next to Coach Petersen on the mantle. Every other game on the schedule is a game the Dawgs really have no excuse if they lose. A 9-3 start should be the baseline performance expectation with anything below that disappointing, that exact record very solid, and anything better borderline miraculous.