Washington today released its non-conference schedule in concert with the Pac-12 putting out the conference pairings. The result is that we know almost entirely what the Husky schedule is going to look like even if the exact dates and times aren’t entirely in place yet. What is the general consensus?
It looks like Mike Hopkins after turning over the majority of the roster in the off-season is trying to ease his team into this one. There is still one game listed as TBD for November 18th which potentially could turn into a premium opponent. But if it doesn’t then there’s not much here to drive fan engagement (other than the potential for hopefully easy wins).
As it currently stands the Huskies have 0 home games against non-conference teams that finished in the top-100 at KenPom last season. Winthrop finished 101st as the Big South champions last year and earned a #12 seed in the NCAA tourney before falling in the 1st round to Villanova. Texas Southern also went to the tournament as the SWAC champs but as a #16 seed who got crushed by Michigan. Utah Valley at #199 is the only other even top-200 non-con home game scheduled at the moment and Northern Arizona and Northern Illinois were firmly in the 300’s.
The challenging parts of this schedule for the Huskies will come away from home. Washington goes to Gonzaga this season after they finished as the runners-up in the NCAA tournament. The Zags will almost certainly begin the year in the top-2 in the polls and are one of the clear frontrunners to win the title this season.
That is the only true road game though in the slate. Washington’s only scheduled tournament is a round robin 4-team MTE taking place in South Dakota the week of Thanksgiving. Their 3 opponents will be Nevada, South Dakota State, and George Mason. All 3 were top-150 teams last year and absolutely have the potential to beat Washington but even if the Dawgs do secure a 3-0 trip it doesn’t exactly do much to move the needle nationally.
But worrying about the NCAA resume isn’t exactly something this team can afford. Mike Hopkins needs wins to remain head coach of this team for much longer and this non-conference schedule provides a realistic shot to go 9-1 provided Washington gets up to even an NIT team level.
In addition to the non-conference schedule release we also got the Pac-12 pairings. We know now what weeks Washington will play each team either home or away but the order of Thursday/Saturday within those weeks is still uncertain.
Once again the Pac-12 is moving 2 extra conference games to early December in the midst of what is normally non-conference season. They will certainly be challenging for the Huskies as it is a trip to Tucson to play Arizona and a game hosting UCLA who should be a preseason consensus top-5 team nationally. A 3-game losing streak when you throw in at Gonzaga to the end of that duo seems likely.
Once we get to the meat of Pac-12 play the Huskies open up with 3 straight road games and 5 of their first 7 starting off with a trip to Washington State. Things have to even out and Washington similarly closes with 5 of 7 home games but if the Dawgs aren’t able to take advantage of their easy non-conference slate then there’s a chance that the season will be officially declared over by the middle of January after a visit to the Oregon schools.
The only games missing from the otherwise conference round robin this year are a home game against USC and a road game at Arizona State.
WASHINGTON HUSKIES NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Nov. 4 - Central Washington (Exhibition)
Nov. 9 - Northern Illinois (337 last year at KenPom)
Nov. 11 - Northern Arizona (319)
Nov. 15 - Texas Southern (208, SWAC tourney champs)
Nov. 18 - TBD
Nov. 22 - Crossover Classic, South Dakota State (113), George Mason (142) & Nevada (91) in South Dakota
Nov. 23 - Crossover Classic, South Dakota State, George Mason & Nevada in South Dakota
Nov. 24 - Crossover Classic, South Dakota State, George Mason & Nevada in South Dakota
Nov. 27 - Winthrop (101, Big South tourney champs)
Dec. 2 - @ Arizona (Early Conference Game)
Dec. 5 - UCLA (Early Conference Game)
Dec. 12 - @ Gonzaga (1, WCC tourney champs)
Dec. 18 - Seattle U (213)
Dec. 21 - Utah Valley (199)