How would you grade the Husky offseason coming off of last season’s debacle?
Max Vrooman- I’m giving Hopkins a B-minus. It was clear that drastic change was needed and I think Washington did close to as well as could reasonably have been expected. I would have loved to beat out Gonzaga for Nolan Hickman or LSU for transfer Tari Eason but this was a reasonable rebuild on the fly. Considering every incoming guy knows there’s a chance this is Hop’s last year if things go south I liked the addition of Jones and Q-Pon to the assistant coaching staff. I would prefer for Washington to have a team that’s starting in the top half of the conference but at least Hop built a roster that has a not completely ridiculous path to get there.
Tom Adamski- Based off where we were in April and coming off a 5-21 season, I’d say a solid B that totally outkicked their coverage. Landing 4 local players that have started on Power 5 teams to jump on board with a coach that was on the proverbial hot seat, is pretty impressive in my opinion. I jumped out of my seat when UW landed #2 JUCO player Langston Wilson. Of course missing on Banchero, Hickman, Nowell and transfers like Tari Eason and Bryson Williams would have been a bigger upgrade, but let’s remember... we were 5-21 and 15-17 the year before. Also, the additions of UW legend Quincy Pondexter and Big Man coach Wyking Jones are equally important that will help with player development, toughness, energy and future recruiting.
Andrew Berg- In an absolute sense, it’s hard to give Hopkins a very good grade. In terms of how well he has set up the team to win in 2022 and beyond, I will give him a C-. On the positive side, it appears that he has recognized that his approach was not working and leaned more heavily on transfers from the region to supplement the roster. While that seems like a better long-term plan, the team is still woefully short on talent that can compete near the top end of the conference and there aren’t promising signs coming down the recruiting trail in the foreseeable future.
Which of the incoming D1 transfers are you most looking forward to watching play this season and why (Brown, Davis, Fuller, or Matthews)?
Max Vrooman- I’m the most intrigued by Emmitt Matthews Jr after getting a sneak peak in the exhibition last week. He’s likely not going to lead the Huskies in any single statistical category but he looks like he could be a difference maker in the Husky zone and is definitely aggressive taking the ball to the rim. Second place goes to Davis after having to wait 4 years longer than we should’ve to see him in a UW uniform.
Tom Adamski- I’m a big fan of all these guys but going with Terrell Brown as I think he will be the straw that stirs the drink and he was also the first Transfer to commit to lead the charge. Born leader and reminds me of Will Conroy and Andrew Andrews. He was at one-time considered a Top-12 transfer coming out of Seattle University but had to play more of a supporting role at Arizona. Brown plays under control, can score the ball and plays really good defense. Like Andrews, could be a guy living at the free throw line at the end of games. Brown had 174 attempts in 2019-2020 with his attacking style.
Andrew Berg- Whether or not his contributions amount to a big jump in the standings, I’m most excited to watch Brown. His dominant performance for Seattle U at Hec Ed is fresh in my memory. I don’t expect him to have games like that every night. Even so, it has been since Jaylen Nowell since the Dawgs had a perimeter player who can get his own bucket the way Brown can. For an offense prone to stagnation, that’s a welcome respite .
Which of the other newcomers are you most looking forward to watching play this season and why (Ariyibi, Grant, Penn, Wilson)?
Max Vrooman- The obvious answer here is Langston Wilson and that’s who I’m picking. He’s still learning the sport but has 99th percentile leaping ability even at the NBA level. Against Central last week he dove into the stands for a loose ball twice in his first 2 minutes on the court. Between that constant effort and his freakish dunking ability he’s going to instantly become a fan favorite.
Tom Adamski- I previewed Langston Wilson last week and very excited for him but I’ll go with Jackson Grant here and he might end up playing the most minutes out of these 4. The Exhibition game was my first time seeing Grant play live and it was very easy to see his talent. He’s got great footwork and a high basketball IQ. His 3 blocks show that he can play both the 4 and 5 spot. He’ll make an impact this year off the bench and could potentially push for a starting spot. Also very excited for Sam Ariyibi in the future after seeing him at the Crawsover and at the Exhibition game!
Andrew Berg- I’m not going to be original just for the sake of being different; Wilson is my pick, too. In addition to the athleticism and the freaky track record, Wilson looked closer to ready to contribute and more able to do the nuanced parts of the game during the Crawsover than I expected. He might not be just a dunker. He might make a real difference right away.
Which of the returners do you think takes the biggest leap from last year to this year (Bajema, Bey, Roberts, Sorn)?
Max Vrooman- I would really love for the answer to be Bey but I’m going with Cole Bajema. It looked like the light was starting to come on for him down the stretch last year (6.3 pts, 2.3 reb, 57% 3pt in the last 6 games). Bajema had trouble finishing at the rim but if he is able to improve in that regard he’s already the best shooter on the team and has a chance to be a fantastic 6th man/scoring option off the bench.
Tom Adamski- Mike Hopkins at Media day said Bajema had made the most notable change from last year to this year (bigger/stronger) but I’m going to take a leap of faith on Nate Roberts. There have been multiple reports that Roberts has looked much better from last year and scored in double figures in a “not-so-secret” scrimmage with Boise State last weekend. Wyking Jones has experience working with Bigs and has focused on helping Roberts slow things down as well as focus on staying out of foul trouble by moving his feet more. If he can continue to rebound and be some sort of threat to score down low, that could increase the ceiling of the team this year.
Andrew Berg- Bajema seems like the smart pick. He has shown the underlying skills to shoot and rebound with very good quickness and leaping ability. What he hasn’t shown is consistent engagement or aggressiveness. If he asserts himself in the offense with a larger role, he doesn’t need to change much about his game to be a significant contributor.
What is your prediction for how this season turns out (approximate Pac-12 finish, postseason berth?, etc.)?
Max Vrooman- The consensus from the various preseason polls and rankings is that the Huskies are going to finish 11th in the conference. It’s hard to say that’s not warranted given they’ve ended up 12th and 11th over the past 2 seasons and are turning over almost their entire roster. I’m still worried about the guard depth and UW is once again susceptible to a Quade Green type situation where if Daejon Davis misses a chunk of time due to injury then things could unravel quickly. But there’s enough veteran talent that has been injected into this squad for me to think they will likely overperform those expectations.
Ceiling- 6th in the conference and thanks to chaos on the other side of the bracket stealing the auto-bid as a #12 seed.
Floor- The team is better than last year but a few injuries and a more competitive bottom end of the conference leads to another 12th place finish.
Expectation- Washington is clearly ahead of the bottom few teams in the league but that still results in a 16-15 (8-12) season which is good for 9th in the Pac-12.
Tom Adamski- New season, new energy and everyone is 0-0! This team reminds me a little of the 2015-2016 team with Murray, Chriss and Andrews that went into the season with low expectations. That team was a lot of fun to watch and had explosive athletes but of course had two Lottery picks and 1st team player in Andrew Andrews. This team doesn’t have those 3 but they have more experience and both teams were picked #11 preseason. I see UW falling short of an NCAA tournament berth but right on the NIT bubble with 19 wins and a #7 finish in conference. But like the great Ted Lasso says, I don’t believe in the “It’s the hope that kills you” mantra so I won’t be shocked if UW sneaks their way into the Big Dance!
Andrew Berg- Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to envision the Dawgs getting out of the bottom half of the conference. The non-conference schedule is soft enough to get to possibly push .500 for the overall season, which could lead to a consolation berth in the NIT. Even so, the roster is full of respectable role players without the one or two stars who can take over a game on either end of the floor. If Grant and some of the other newcomers can show the promise to become that sort of player in another year or two, I’ll take that as a successful season.
Washington’s seasons starts at 7pm PT on Tuesday night at home against Northern Illinois.