The last week has not been kind to Husky basketball fans. It started with the news that Quade Green was ruled academically ineligible. After years without a natural PG, Green finally started to assert himself in the offense, which created better looks for Isaiah Stewart and the wing players, and functioned as an effective shooting outlet. While Jaden McDaniels and Naziah Carter were considered the offensive leaders next to Stewart coming into the year, it was Green who was the #2 offensive option more often than not in recent games.
The first game Green missed was a disappointing loss away to Stanford. While the odds favored the Cardinal going into the game, it looked winnable for the Dawgs and they started the game well. An early run gave UW a 10-point lead and they stayed ahead by five at the half due to stifling defense. McDaniels was playing one of his better games with a presence on the boards and encouraging assertiveness. The offense went cold, though, as Stanford doubled Stewart inside and held him to four points. The Dawgs scored only eight points in the final 11:55 of the game, which turned a 12 point lead into a five point loss. Poor FT shooting from UW and hot three-point shooting from Stanford in the closing minutes sealed the deal.
It was a tough loss, but one UW could overcome since it was on the road against a solid opponent. The next game against Cal was harder to swallow. The Bears entered the game as the worst team in the conference amidst a serious rebuild. The story wasn’t the usual one of turnovers and questionable rebounding; the Huskies just couldn’t shoot. Other than a second-half stretch fueled by Stewart and McDaniels, the Huskies lacked the firepower to keep up with a team that usually struggles to score. UW was awful on threes (8-32) and almost as bad on twos (10-29). Some of the problem goes back to the Green’s absence and the lack of playmaking to set up easy looks. A lot of it also falls at the feet of veteran players like Carter and Hameir Wright who missed makeable shots and cost the team the game.
The losses leave UW in a perilous spot for NCAA tournament selection. They could always get hot and pull off enough quality wins in conference to turn things in their favor, or even upset everyone in the conference tournament. The current trajectory, though, is not a good one. This weekend will be an immediate gut check with both Oregon schools coming to Seattle. The Ducks pulled out a tough one against Arizona last week and fended off a challenge from ASU. The Beavers split with the two desert schools in the opposite way from what you’d expect- they lost a close one to the Sun Devils and blew out the Wildcats. If UW wins both games, it changes the hopes for the season, but that seems like a near impossibility after their recent performances.
The Oregon-Arizona tilt was the most significant- and most entertaining- in the conference over the last week. The game was back and forth all night with numerous lead changes. Nico Mannion and Payton Pritchard played each other to a standstill; both made some great plays, but also forced the other into some mistakes. The Wildcats led 66-60 in the closing minutes, but the Ducks clawed back and tied it at 66 with a late Pritchard jumper. Zeke Nnaji’s shot at the buzzer missed and Sean Miller was apoplectic that a foul wasn’t called (I know, hard to imagine Miller showing any emotion). The game stayed closely knotted in OT. Josh Green made a jumper to put Arizona up with under 30 seconds to play. Will Richardson, who came into the game averaging under 10 ppg, nailed a jumper to win it for the Ducks. Richardson was the hero with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that Cal also beat Washington State to pull off an unexpected sweep. Colorado continued their positive run of form with a 91-52 bludgeoning of Utah, and USC held serve with a cross-town win over rival UCLA. This weekend, look out for Colorado-Arizona. These two teams both have a case for being the #2 team in the conference. It’s a classic experience vs. raw talent battle.
If you get to 18-0, you have my attention. I haven’t dedicated many pixels in this space to San Diego State, but they keep piling up wins, and it’s harder and harder to deny them. There will always be scheduling questions for Mountain West teams, though the Aztecs have done what they can to prove themselves against strong opposition. They have Quad 1 wins away to BYU and Utah State, and at neutral sites against Creighton and Iowa (the latter two are ranked in one top-25 or the other). Pac-12 fans will remember the name Malachi Flynn. SDSU’s leading scorer played his first two years at WSU before transferring and sitting out last year. Flynn is averaging a career-high 16.6 ppg on improved accuracy from both two and three. Grad transfer KJ Feagin is another PG who plays starter minutes. Kiwi big man Yanni Wetzell is another transfer, this time from Vanderbilt. Given their lineups, it’s not surprising that they stand out as a team with a lot of assists and a high shooting percentage. They also defend very well- they don’t go for a lot of blocks or steals, but they are sound enough to force opponents to shoot a very low percentage. SDSU’s soft remaining schedule is a mixed blessing. On one hand, they don’t have another game that profiles as a likely Quad 1 opportunity. On the other hand, they could become the first mid-major team since Wichita State in 2013-14 to enter the tournament undefeated.
Another team that has suddenly caught fire is Clemson. They started the season 6-7 with losses to the likes of Yale, Miami, and South Carolina. Since then, they have consecutively downed NC State, UNC, and Duke. Even in a down year for the Tar Heels, that’s a run their fan base will remember.
If you’re reading this article on Wednesday, check out Butler and Seton Hall on Wednesday night. The Big East is a deep, talented conference and these are two of the most entertaining squads. This weekend, undefeated Auburn will face a tough challenge on the road against Florida. Louisville will travel to Duke, both looking for some redemption, and giant killer Purdue travels to Maryland.
Will the Huskies bounce back to make the NCAA Tournament?
This poll is closed