There’s at least one person within the Pac-12 Conference who feels Mike Hopkins should be the conference’s Coach of the Year.
Pac-12 Network analyst Don MacLean said Thursday the first-year Washington coach should be named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. MacLean’s comments came after UW took a 68-64 win over No. 25 Arizona State for its third straight Pac-12 victory.
“I hate to say this because (Arizona coach) Sean Miller might go 17-1 in the league,” MacLean said. “Mike Hopkins is going to be Coach of the Year. He has to be with this turnaround.”
Hopkins, a former longtime Syracuse assistant, has restored UW (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference) to national relevance. The Huskies haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament since the 2010-11 season yet this could be the season the streak ends.
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UW was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 and after beating ASU, have sole possession of third place in early February.
Anyone making a case for Hopkins’ candidacy has a lot to work with. He led UW to a win over then-No. 2 Kansas in Kansas City in early December.
He surpassed last season’s win total before reaching conference play and led the Huskies to their first regular season Pac-12 win outside the Evergreen State in more than a year.
Washington can also say it has four wins over potential NCAA Tournament teams in ASU, Belmont, Kansas and USC.
Two of those wins — Kansas and USC — came away from the Alaska Airlines Arena.
But for those who feel it should be Miller, they also have a point.
A reigning three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Miller has the No. 9 Wildcats (19-4, 9-1 Pac-12) rolling through the conference.
Besides a 80-77 loss at Colorado, only a handful of teams have come within five points of even beating Arizona.
Plus, he also has some of the best talent in the nation playing at their strongest. Seattle native and junior guard Allonzo Trier is averaging a team-high 19.9 points.
Freshman center Deandre Ayton, who is projected to go No. 1 in this year’s NBA Draft, is averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds.
So it should only make sense Hopkins and Miller will duel Saturday when the Huskies host the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m.
“Well, at this point,” said Pac-12 analyst and former USC coach Kevin O’Neill. “It would be (Hopkins) or Sean Miller.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark