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Looking Back at the UW MBB Preseason Player Projections

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How accurately did I predict the team’s performance?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Washington vs North Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season I wrote up previews on every UW scholarship player and provided my predictions for their final stat lines. Now that the Huskies have played their last game I’m going to look back at those predictions to see how well I did.

SF Jamal Bey, Fr. 6’6, 200

Best Quote: “It seems likely that Bey will be behind Nowell, Thybulle, Green, and Carter on the depth chart for playing time at 2-3 spots. He’s not going to redshirt but I can’t see him getting crunch time minutes on this roster barring injury or Green completely reverting back to a pumpkin.”

Worst Quote: None

Actual Stat Line: 6.2 minutes, 1.0 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 45% FG, 40% 3pt, 53.8% FT

Predicted Stat Line: Not a part of the regular rotation

I think I came pretty close to nailing this one. My definition of “not a part of the regular rotation” was if a player played fewer than 2/3rds of the total games and averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game. Bey averaged fewer than 10 minutes but ultimately appeared in 83% of the games. After only playing double digit minutes three times in the first 33 games Bey reached that mark in the Pac-12 final and both NCAA tournament games. He certainly looked the part in those minutes and if the season were starting tomorrow I think Bey may have jumped Green on the depth chart. But with both Green and Thybulle gone next season you can expect Bey to at least be a major contributor if not a starter.

PF Nate Roberts, Fr. 6’10, 235

Best Quote: “It’s probably in both the program’s and Roberts’ best interest if he redshirts.”

Worst Quote: “I think there’s only enough playing time for one of the Husky freshman bigs.”

Actual Stat Line: Not a part of the regular rotation

Predicted Stat Line: Not a part of the regular rotation

The only reason that’s my worst quote is because it turned out there wasn’t even enough playing time for one of the bigs. Roberts was slotted to redshirt from the beginning of the season and that never changed.

C Bryan Penn-Johnson, Fr. 7’0, 245

Best Quote: “BPJ was the only freshman to see playing time against Nevada while the game was still in doubt but it comes with the caveat that Dickerson didn’t play and Timmins got into immediate foul trouble.”

Worst Quote: None

Actual Stat Line: Not a part of the regular rotation

Predicted Stat Line: 6.1 minutes, 0.9 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 45.8% FG, 50% FT

Early on it seems like the plan was to have BPJ come off the bench and play 3-5 minutes in the first half to help keep the bigs out of foul trouble. He appeared in 5 games in November including a 3 block effort in just 7 minutes during a blowout of Eastern Washington. Then he suffered a foot injury and at some point the coaching staff decided to go ahead and sit him for the rest of the year to secure a redshirt (basketball is pretty forgiving with redshirts for injuries and given he never tried coming back from his injury he’ll almost assuredly be given one). Next season it’ll be crowded down low with Noah Dickerson leaving but Isaiah Stewart coming in to replace his minutes. The best of the young big men will have a spot in the rotation so it should be a very intriguing competition this summer.

PG Elijah Hardy, Fr. 6’2, 170

Best Quote: “Against easier opponents I think he’ll get some run. That said, there’s also a chance that Hop just doesn’t think he’s ready to make an impact this season and that he’s comfortable with Crisp and Nowell splitting all of the point guard duties in which case Hardy redshirts.”

Worst Quote: “However, since there’s absolutely no one else if Crisp or Nowell miss any time due to injury I think it’s most likely that Hardy sees good minutes on the back end of the frontloaded non-con schedule to prepare him if needed in conference play.”

Actual Stat Line: Not a part of the regular rotation

Predicted Stat Line: 6.1 minutes, 1.2 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 41.7% FG, 25% 3pt, 61.5% FT

Hardy suffered a bad break (literally) when he broke his hand less than one minute into his first college game which came in the closing seconds of the blowout loss at Auburn. We’ll never know if Hardy would’ve become a more regular contributor without that setback. But with a veteran team fighting for tournament seeding and no injuries among the returners there wasn’t much of a reason for Hop to find Hardy playing time if there were going to be growing pains. He scored 13 points in 18 minutes (albeit entirely in garbage time) but in that short amount of time Hardy looked to have a lot of tools. With Crisp and possibly Nowell leaving plus Quade Green likely ineligible until January it means Hardy will be relied upon heavily next season.

PF Hameir Wright, So. 6’9, 215

Best Quote: “Wright’s biggest impact will continue to be felt on defense.”

Worst Quote: “On offense it didn’t appear he could deal with the problems at the free throw line which led to him not wanting to get fouled which completely threw him off his game. If he could get to 60% at the charity stripe I think it would unlock a lot of things for him.”

Actual Stat Line: 17.9 minutes, 2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 27.1% FG, 24.1% 3pt, 70.8% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 15.2 minutes, 3.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 36.9% FG, 31.1% 3pt, 45.7% FT

It turns out that even once Hameir Wright started hitting his free throws the rest of his game still struggled. Wright was a black hole on offense this season and except for his 24 FT attempts he regressed from even modest expectations. After starting a miserable 17% on 3-pt attempts there was definite improvement as Wright ended the season hitting 36% from deep over the final 11 games. However, he was just 2/9 on 2-pt attempts in that same time frame and got to the line only three times. But Wright continued to get a few more minutes than expected because he was UW’s only rim protector. Opponents shot 25% in the paint with Wright as the primary defender compared to 50% in all other situations. Fouls are still an issue for Wright but his block percentage was 4th in the conference. It will be fascinating to see how Hop deploys Wright next season with 3 new big men eligible in the fall.

Nahziah Carter, So. 6’6, 205

Best Quote: “No Husky player appears more poised for a breakout season than Naz Carter.”

Worst Quote: “I don’t see Carter seeing much more of the court although he may take a larger role when on it.”

Actual Stat Line: 20.5 minutes, 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 47.8% FG, 31% 3pt, 63.7% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 13.6 minutes, 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 46.9% FG, 34.9% 3pt, 72.7% FT

The question for Naz this season wasn’t about talent but about opportunity. Where were the extra minutes going to come from in order to show off his apparent talent with Jaylen Nowell, Matisse Thybulle, and Dominic Green still on the roster? Ironically, they came mainly from Sam Timmins as Washington played more often with Noah Dickerson or Hameir Wright at center which opened up more playing time for the wings. Carter improved on offense almost across the board as he was much more assertive and added a pull-up midrange jumper to his game which is almost unblockable given his height and leaping ability. He also raised his assist rate and decreased his turnover rate. His 3-pt percentage went down but last year’s total felt a little unsustainable given his track record. Carter’s long windup 3-pt shooting motion requires a lot of time to fire so it’s not surprising he’s vastly better when wide open (43% on unguarded 3’s, 24% on guarded).

On the defensive end, his steal and block numbers were both down from his freshman season but that seems to be more of a reflection of Carter gambling less as he still seemed extremely effective on that end of the floor. Naz will almost certainly start and average 30+ minutes and 12+ points per game next season.

Jaylen Nowell, So. 6’4, 200

Best Quote: “The expectation should be for Jaylen to lead the team in scoring once again this season and he’ll be the one with the ball if the Huskies are down by 1 with 10 seconds to play.”

Worst Quote: “None” (but omitting that Jaylen was a potential Pac-12 PoTY candidate isn’t great)

Actual Stat Line: 34.4 minutes, 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 50.2% FG, 44% 3pt, 77.9% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 34 minutes, 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 47.7% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 78.7% FT

I didn’t make a lot of predictions in the actual text, hence the none for worst quote. But Nowell had a more efficient season than I expected even though his raw points total was lower. That was by virtue of the fact that he was slightly less ball dominant this season. Nowell took 20 fewer shots this season despite playing almost 150 more minutes. He became a more willing passer although his turnovers increased just as much as his assists so he might not have necessarily become a better passer between the seasons. The big improvement for Nowell is he became a fantastic 3-pt shooter by improving almost 9 percentage points from year 1 to year 2.

Jaylen’s defense continued to be the biggest weakness of his game although he became a much better defensive rebounder out of the zone. The steal numbers went up but there continued to be numerous times where he would lose track of a guy and let up an open corner 3 attempt. At this point it is very up in the air whether Nowell comes back to Washington next season. He’ll certainly go through the pre-draft process at a minimum but there’s a good chance he’s willing to bet on himself despite the lack of NBA buzz similar to Allonzo Trier at Arizona who is now a rotation player with the Knicks despite going undrafted. If he comes back, Jaylen will get national preseason hype and will have a chance to distinguish himself from the outgoing crop of seniors in people’s minds.

Sam Timmins, Jr. 6’11, 265

Best Quote: “This year they have 5 [potential centers] so it’s possible that Coach Hop will have a much shorter leash for Sam than he did last season.”

Worst Quote: “At least for the beginning of the year though I expect the substitution patterns to be similar to last year. Sam and Noah will start alongside one another, Sam will be one of the first players to sit, and then he will come back to replace Noah and they’ll alternate for the rest of the game.”

Actual Stat Line: 10.4 minutes, 1.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 62% FG, 36.4% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 15.2 minutes, 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 53.2% FG, 58.7% FT

This was perhaps my biggest misstep in my predictions. The data was clear that the Huskies were much worse when both Sam Timmins and Noah Dickerson played alongside each other. The spacing was terrible and even though it shielded Noah from foul trouble a little, Timmins wasn’t an elite enough rim protector to make up for that. Hop saw the light over the summer (or just gained confidence in Hameir Wright) and Timmins was fully relegated to the bench.

Looking at rate stats, Sam regressed as a rebounder and somehow got even worse with his turnovers despite starting with a pretty low bar (turnover rate from 25.1 to 31.4). He massively improved as a free throw shooter during his sophomore year but fell off the wagon this season and shot just 8% outside of 2 of his games. The shot blocking numbers were better but they came with a corresponding increase in fouls which only served to keep Timmins out of the lineup. You feel for seniors who can’t crack the lineup but with Roberts/BPJ coming off redshirts and Isaiah Stewart coming in there’s a good chance that Timmins falls out of the rotation next season. And if he doesn’t it bodes poorly for the success of the redshirt freshmen.

Dominic Green, Sr. 6’6, 190

Best Quote: “Green was used as essentially the 6th starter during conference play and ...it certainly seems reasonable to expect that trend to continue.”

Worst Quote: “I looked at the history of players seeing such a dramatic improvement in shooting as an upperclassman and in general they continued as about 40% shooters the rest of their college careers.”

Actual Stat Line: 22.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 35.7% FG, 35.1% 3pt, 77.8% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 20.7 minutes, 5.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 40.9% FG, 40.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT

Green started whenever Hameir Wright was unavailable and finished 5th on the team in minutes. However, his playing time dropped over the last few weeks of the season to make way for Naz Carter. Green’s senior season was in some ways a combination of his sophomore and junior years. The 3-pt percentage was almost exactly in the middle which meant he was a slightly above average shooter rather than a dominant sniper or a lead weight. But Green once again looked hopeless doing anything but catching and shooting as his turnovers spiked and 2-pt % plummeted during conference play. Give him credit though on the defensive end of the floor where Green won a number of contested rebounds and became in my mind a plus on that end of the floor. Ultimately, Green was a role player who probably played about 6-7 more minutes than you would like to see on a team with NCAA aspirations. But he had one plus skill and supplemented it with hard work and effort and every team needs that guy on the roster.

David Crisp, Sr. 6’0, 195

Best Quote: “After 3 years of evidence I find it difficult to believe that Crisp is finally going to be able to put everything together and become a true point guard.”

Worst Quote: “Coach Hopkins has stated that he really wants Crisp to average 5-6 assists per game this season.”

Actual Stat Line: 33 minutes, 12.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 41% FG, 37.4% 3pt, 64.1% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 30.3 minutes, 11.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 41.7% FG, 32.2% 3pt, 68.2% FT

I think we can all appreciate now how mind boggling it was that Andrew Andrews became an elite point guard out of nowhere in his senior season. Crisp and Nowell nominally shared the point guard duties but it might be more accurate to say there were 0 point guards on the roster this season. Crisp’s assist and turnover rate in conference play were about equal to what they were in his freshman season playing off guard alongside Andrews and Dejounte Murray. That move helped his 3-pt shot as he’s always been massively better as a spot up shooter than taking 3’s off the dribble. I thought we’d see his shooting improve from last season but he shot 42.5% on 3’s in Pac-12 play after making just 23.4% as a junior. During the 21 games preceding the Pac-12 tournament final Crisp averaged 14.5 points per game and finally lived up to his potential. He never became the player many wanted but that stretch demonstrated that Crisp had a place as a key cog on an extremely successful team

Matisse Thybulle, Sr. 6’5, 195

Best Quote: “Matisse Thybulle isn’t going to get the press headlines that better scorers like Noah Dickerson or Jaylen Nowell do but he might be more important than either for the success of the team.”

Worst Quote: “I don’t expect to see any dramatic changes in Thybulle’s approach to the game this season but if he could show up 5-10% better in a couple of areas it could be a major boost for the program.”

Actual Stat Line: 31.1 minutes, 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 3.5 steals, 41.5% FG, 30.5% 3pt, 85.1% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 32.0 minutes, 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.2 steals, 47.1% FG, 38.9% 3pt, 79.1% FT

Thybulle exceeded everyone’s expectations on defense this season while simultaneously failing to meet any of them on offense. I bumped up his projected steal total by a bit but I don’t think anyone saw coming the literally unprecedented numbers Thybulle put up over the final 16 games: 4.3 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. There is no question that UW will never see another defender of Thybulle’s quality again and that there’s no way for advanced statistics to properly measure the contributions he made to the defense. He is a generational talent on that end of the floor and will be greatly missed next season.

With all of that said, it’s reasonable to criticize the stagnation in his offensive game. Maybe he stole some of his energy on offense and put it towards the defense but he could just never get both going at once. Thybulle had gone through 10-game shooting slumps before but entered the fall as a 38% career 3-pt shooter and wound up barely above 30% for the season. If he had continued at that rate it would’ve meant an extra 11 made 3’s. We did see increased efficiency inside the arc but that came on significantly fewer attempts as he drove less often. Husky fans may not get the privilege of watching Matisse Thybulle in person again but he’ll certainly be on our screens in the NBA for a long time to come.

Noah Dickerson, Sr. 6’8, 245

Best Quote: “As long as Dickerson puts up numbers that are somewhat comparable to last season then he’ll go down as the best Husky big man since the Brockness Monster himself.”

Worst Quote: “It’s going to be necessary for him [to shoot 3’s] as he moves forward in his professional career since 6’8 post men who can’t shoot are a dying breed...it’s possible that we’ll see more than the 5 attempts he shot last season”

Actual Stat Line: 25.9 minutes, 12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 55.6% FG, 68.8% FT

Predicted Stat Line: 27.5 minutes, 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 56.0% FG, 79.5% FT

It was undoubtedly a disappointing season for Noah Dickerson who looked unstoppable for most of his junior season. He reportedly lost a significant amount of weight during the summer and then suffered a leg injury a few weeks before the season started. It may have been one or the other or both that contributed to it but for much of the season Dickerson just didn’t look quite like the same guy. The biggest culprit was a spike in turnovers as refs seemed to call him for travels on his first step spinning around his defender much more than in prior seasons. He also didn’t get the benefit of the doubt establishing position anymore. That caused his turnover rate to go from 13.9 to 17.5 to 21.9 over the past 3 seasons.

When Noah wasn’t turning the ball over he was largely the same player. His rebounding rates and field goal percentage were both only slightly less than they were as a junior. But the other negative change was his free throw percentage. Noah regressed back to his sophomore levels in that regard which cost him about 20 points over the course of the season. None of my predicted stat lines involve his defense but give Dickerson credit for improving on that end this season with career highs in both blocks and steals. Despite the slight downturn in stats this season I still think Noah owns the title of best UW big since Jon Brockman with only Matthew Bryan-Amaning as competition. But Noah’s 1,609 career points will be a tough mark for any non-shooting big man to beat in this new small ball era of college basketball.

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