The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball team released their complete non-conference schedule today. The Dawgs are in a make or break season (again) in the last before they move to the extremely competitive Big Ten.
The home slate includes a few intriguing teams plus one clear premium game. It’s Washington’s turn to host Gonzaga after Covid-19 led to a large disruption in the every other year format. The Huskies last hosted back in 2019-20 in an 83-76 loss with the Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart team. The 2020-21 game in Spokane never got scheduled and the 2021-22 game was cancelled after UW suffered a team-wide outbreak. On paper this looks like the weakest Gonzaga team in several years with Drew Timme and Julian Strawther both gone but the Bulldogs are likely still a top-15 team even if not a title contender.
There are also another trio of teams that made the NCAA tournament on the home slate. Nevada earned a #11 seed but lost to Arizona State in the First Four. Northern Kentucky won the Horizon League tournament and lost to Houston as a #16 seed. Meanwhile, Montana State won the Big Sky tournament and lost to Kansas State as a #14 seed. Last year the Bobcats were led by former Husky RaeQuan Battle and head coach Danny Sprinkle but both are now gone (Battle to West Virginia, Sprinkle to Utah State).
The biggest test will be to see if the Huskies can win a game in a competitive field at the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas. Washington will open playing Xavier (led by former Arizona coach Sean Miller) and then play either Saint Mary’s or San Diego State. Last year the Huskies upset SMC in overtime and the Aztecs of course went on a miracle run to the NCAA title game. Each was a clear top-25 team for most of the season.
Other home games include Bellarmine, UC San Diego, and Eastern Washington. There’s also a separate trip to Las Vegas to play against Colorado State and head coach Niko Medved. I’ve long been a fan of Medved’s track record and if the Huskies were to end up looking for a coach for some reason in the near future, he may get a chance to leave an impression on the Washington decision makers in that game.
Overall, this is a fairly challenging slate. There are no absolute gimmes. No one is expected to end up ranked 320th in the country where Washington could reasonably win by 40 points even if the Huskies aren’t a tournament team. The only teams to finish with a losing record last year were Bellarmine, UC San Diego, and Colorado State. All 3 teams are expected in the preseason BartTorvik records to end up substantially better this year than they were last year.
If Washington could come out of this stretch with a 9-2 or better record then it suggests the Huskies are a legitimate NCAA tournament contender. An 8-3 record would potentially give that kind of upside depending on how the games went. Anything worse than that and expect the already burning seat under Mike Hopkins to get turned up a notch.
- Monday, November 6th (home): Bellarmine, 15-18, 262nd at KenPom last year, 196th preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Thursday, November 9th (home): Northern Kentucky, 22-13, 160th at KenPom last year, 151st preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Sunday, November 12th (home): Nevada, 22-11, 62nd at KenPom last year, 73rd preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Friday, November 17th (neutral): Xavier, 27-10, 15th at KenPom last year, 40th preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Sunday, November 19th (neutral): Saint Mary’s, 27-8, 13th at KenPom last year, 14th preseason at BartTorvik this year OR San Diego State, 32-7, 14th at KenPom last year, 22nd preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Tuesday, November 28th (home): UC San Diego, 10-20, 276th at KenPom last year, 171st preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Saturday, December 2nd (neutral): Colorado State, 15-18, 110th at KenPom last year, 61st preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Tuesday, December 5th (home): Montana State, 25-10, 113th at KenPom last year, 234th preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Saturday, Decemeber 9th (home): Gonzaga, 31-6, 8th at KenPom last year, 11th preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Sunday, December 17th (semi-away): Seattle U, 20-12, 141st at KenPom last year, 108th preseason at BartTorvik this year
- Thursday, December 21st (home): Eastern Washington, 23-11, 121st at KenPom last year, 176th at BartTorvik this year