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Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day Recap

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Non-Con schedule, Eligibility Waivers, Media poll, Interviews, and More

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Huskies Non-Conference Schedule

We knew based on previous comments that the Huskies would have a dramatically less difficult non-conference slate after games against Gonzaga, Auburn, and Oklahoma were cancelled. However, the team announced the schedule today and it may be even more underwhelming than originally anticipated. The number in parentheses is their preseason rank at kenpom.com.

Wednesday, November 25th- Portland State (#283), Home

Friday, November 27th- San Diego (#149), Home

Saturday, November 28th- Cal State Fullerton (#326), Home

Wednesday, December 9th- Seattle U (#319), Home

Wednesday, December 16th- Montana (#155), Home

Sunday, December 20th- Colorado (#61), Neutral (Las Vegas)

The first 3 games are part of the “Husky Classic” which will feature a round robin on campus between the UW and the 3 schools they’re playing at the end of November. We are waiting on game times and TV assignments but there’s the potential for the game against San Diego, which is the best of the 3, happening at the same time as the Apple Cup which was announced today to start at 7:30p.

The Huskies do have a game between UCSF and Seattle but it will be their conference opener at Utah. Similarly, the Huskies will host Oregon in between playing Seattle and Montana. However, the game on December 20th is not part of the conference slate. This isn’t totally unprecedented. Last year Colorado opened the season against Arizona State in China in a game that didn’t count towards the league standings. The Buffs were one of two teams the Huskies weren’t scheduled to play twice so both seemingly agreed to make that 2nd contest a neutral one in order to find another game (now Oregon State is the lone school the Dawgs aren’t scheduled to play twice).

Obviously, this schedule will be considered a disappointment for those who want to have a premium game. The only team that’s almost assured to be in the top-half of college basketball is a conference opponent we play every year anyways. The first thing to remember is that with the way case counts are trending, there’s a good chance that multiple of these games wind up getting cancelled anyways. The Huskies are also replacing their 3 leading scorers so giving them time to grow together before facing a challenge isn’t that big a deal. It’s probably better for Washington’s long-term outlook to be able to bank those wins then try to schedule aggressively for an NCAA bid which is already going to be a wonky process even if all games happen as scheduled.

Erik Stevenson Waiver

It’s no great shocker but Erik Stevenson, formerly of Wichita State, has received his waiver to be immediately eligible at Washington. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was relieved of his duties this week after a report came out purporting numerous disturbing allegations against the former head coach. That combined with the fact that Stevenson was transferring closer to home during a pandemic essentially guaranteed this outcome.

Now the Huskies are just waiting on the status of Michigan transfer Cole Bajema whose case isn’t quite as much of a slam dunk but which still seems likely to be approved in the current climate.

For more on how Stevenson, who averaged 11+ points per game last season, fits in with the Husky roster check out my preview on him from earlier in the week.

Pac-12 Media Poll

The Huskies finished 9th in the preseason Pac-12 media poll a year after being selected 3rd. Obviously, they ended up 12th in the standings and have since lost a pair of players expected to be 1st round picks in next week’s finally happening NBA Draft. Causing additional uncertainty as to where the Huskies should be picked is the status of Nahziah Carter who has been indefinitely suspended and is known to be appealing the decision. If Carter were to miss the entire season it would mean that Washington’s 3 leading scorers are not returning. Given all of that it isn’t a shock to see the Huskies near the bottoms of the projected standings.

Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Washington joined Arizona as the only teams that had 0 players on the Pac-12 all-1st or 2nd teams. Essentially the Huskies are projected to have none of the top-15 players in the conference. It would be a big surprise if that is true by year’s end. PG Quade Green seems the most likely candidate to join the list and if you don’t punish Green for his academic ineligibility then there’s just about no case for having him off the list while including Isaac Bonton and Tyger Campbell.

A quick comparison:

Green: 11.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.3 tpg, 44.7% 3pt

Campbell: 8.3 ppg, 5,0 apg, 1.8 tpg, 26.7% 3pt

Bonton: 15.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.6 tpg, 30.7% 3pt

Quade at least was named honorable mention while Arizona also had incoming Georgetown transfer PG James Akinjo merit that rank as well.

Coach Mike Hopkins Interview

Erik Stevenson is eligible, what does that mean for the team?

-We’re extremely excited, he’s a proven entity at a major program. He is tough, shoots the ball, and is a high level competitor. He can really shoot, score, and compete.

Last season there was a lot of hype but also inconsistency, how do you fix that?

-Biggest weapon in basketball is the 3-pt shot and with Quade, Stevenson, Wright, Tsohonis, and potentially Bajema then the team will be much better shooting. This year will be more balanced offensively.

Taking a point guard off a team is always disruptive, how much does having Green back?

Has the ability to make others better and also score 20+ points in a game. Should make things easier for other players like RaeQuan Battle who also should help the shooting.

How has it been like navigating the testing and practicing in COVID?

Said they’ve been lucky because they’ve had players on campus with one of the best medical staffs in the country. Try to educate players every day and how the players have had to sacrifice socially to protect the team.

Less than 2 weeks until the season, do you know who your starting five or identity is yet?

Without exhibition games it’s a little harder. They’ve scrimmaged internally. Have a pretty good feel about starters but some new guys who have a chance to break in. Zone defense is always the team identity and offensively they have a different philosophy around spacing and the 3-pt shot. Quade will be a big piece but will have to be a bit by committee.

Concerned about your depth given 1 positive test could torpedo things?

Not concerned unless there’s an outbreak which is something they can’t fully control. Have a lot of good players and whoever can be the safest will have a competitive advantage.

Without fans how are you going to be able to bring energy on their own, who is it without David Crisp or Isaiah Stewart like in recent years?

Agree with Hameir that Nate Roberts is like that, Quade is another one and RaeQuan Battle has also been practicing with a ton of energy. Going to be a huge difference without the Dawg Pack who are such a big part of the home court experience.

You mentioned RaeQuan Battle, what steps has he taken to improve from his freshman year?

High level shooter but now has to improve his shot selection and figure how to impact winning. He’s been very high energy and high effort on defense in practice.

How important was it to have Stevenson to adapt to new offensive philosophy?

Experience matters and Erik is exceptionally talented but is also a bulldog competitor. Tougher together is the team motto and he exemplifies that.

Still waiting on Cole’s waiver?

Think we’re getting good news but since it got broken publicly they decided to go ahead and release it rather than do both together like they wanted. Expect it’s going to be coming soon but still waiting.

How have positive tests impacted the program?

Kids have been fantastic trying to stay safe.

Marcus Tsohonis went from potentially redshirting to starting, what’s his role going to be like this year?

He has experience under his belt and he’s fully capable playing alongside Quade Green and they can be interchangeable at the 1 or the 2.

What improvements have you seen from Nate Roberts?

He’s one of the best rebounders Hop has ever seen. Has the same kind of energy and hustle that Isaiah Stewart brought. Has improved his foul shooting which will help him stay on the court late in games.

What have you seen from J’Raan Brooks?

J’Raan Brooks has really improved shooting the ball. Has improved his body and understanding the zone defense.

Any update on Nahziah Carter?

No update. Practicing with who is available. “It is what it is”. Have to control what we control and if he’s with us then great but if not then we’ll make due. Looking forward to just being able to play after the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Hameir Wright Interview

How have you seen program evolve?

-It’s evolved a lot since putting in the zone defense and how new guys are added.

Which position are you most comfortable with?

-He doesn’t have one spot where he’s most comfortable. Happy to play the 3, 4, or 5 depending on what the coach wants and finds it as a fun challenge.

Season changed last year without Quade?

-Will make a big difference. Hameir played against him back in high school. He can be a floor general and a leader.

Isaiah Stewart’s gone so what happens without him?

-Got to rely on each other more than ever. Have to play great team defense to prevent penetration.

Less than 2 weeks since start of season and won’t have scrimmages, do you have a sense for the identity of this season’s squad?

-Have to rely on playing team basketball. Lot of guys that have a variety of skills.

Erik Stevenson got his waiver. What’s stood out about his game?

-Hard worker who is very competitive. Hadn’t known him before this summer. Going to give the team everything he’s got.

They just announced the non-conference schedule, are you looking forward to any particular matchups?

-Haven’t looked closely at it yet. Disappointed to having those big games cancelled this year.

Hop has mentioned a guard-centric offense. How do you see yourself fitting in this year?

-Needs to work on shooting the ball and be able to knock it down when fed the ball.

What has your offseason been like trying to stay close to family back home in New York?

-Been tough to not be able to visit family back in New York in person recently but got to see them early in the offseason. Tried to balance basketball and family but been focused on basketball.

What was biggest lesson you learned from last year’s team struggles?

-Have to mentally tough and can’t let a single loss affect your confidence and snowball into playing poorly. Be ready for adversity and accept the challenge.

Who are the leaders on this team since you are the only senior and what’s the responsibility for you?

-It’s difficult to lead considering there’s so much different this year and having to adapt to everything else happening and guide them when things are new. It’s a challenge but most of the team is very self-motivated.

Who is the guy who will be able to create energy even when there aren’t fans?

-Nate Roberts.

Jackson Grant Signing

Finally, the Huskies this morning officially announced the signing of 6’10 forward Jackson Grant out of Olympia. Grant is viewed as somewhere between #40-80 in the class of 2021 depending upon the recruiting service. In terms of what Husky fans should expect out of his game, Grant profiles to fill the shoes expected to be vacated by Hameir Wright (if he doesn’t choose to stay for a 5th year with the eligibility rules for this season).

Grant is a prototypical stretch 4 and he has the length to potentially be able to play some center in the Husky zone or would clearly be able to play in the corner. I’m sure the team would prefer a year or two in the college weight room before he plays too much team at center. Grant’s a plus shooter who should be able to step in and shoot 35%+ from 3-point range immediately. He’s not a completely one dimensional offensive player like Wright has been but it’s likely the Huskies don’t put much more on his plate right away.

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