Washington’s basketball team was picked to finish third in the conference by members of the Pac-12 media, marking the highest predicted finish for the program since the Huskies were picked to win the league title in 2010-11 season. UW returns all five starters, which is something no other team in the conference can say.
Although Washington did reach the NIT this past season, the Huskies are dreaming of another tournament, the NCAA. A third-place (or better, why not?) would probably get UW into the NCAAs, which would fulfill the predictions several preseason websites and magazines made about UW breaking their eight year-long NCAA Tournament drought.
For the second time in the last three seasons, @OregonMBB is the #Pac12Hoops preseason favorite according to the media! It marks the first time the same school has been favored in both the #Pac12Hoops & #Pac12WBB preseason polls. https://t.co/oOib16VMLN pic.twitter.com/rII4eKq4PA— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) October 11, 2018
Here’s the lowdown on the Huskies entering the 2018-19 season.
2017-18 record: 21-13 overall, 10-8 Pac-12
Postseason: 2nd Round NIT
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2011
At the conference’s annual media day, Washington was represented by head coach Mike Hopkins and guards Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell. While on the Pac-12 studio set, Hopkins decided to get a workout in.
Head coach Mike Hopkins
On being picked to finish third in the preseason:
“You know, I don’t know. We obviously have a lot of returners but still trying to build, you know, what we’re doing, raising the standard. But we’re just focused on how we get better every day. I know it’s the corny coaching cliché, but the reality of it is how do we get better.”
On Washington and Markelle Fultz being linked into the ongoing NCAA/FBI investigation:
“Well, the biggest thing is obviously we’re aware of everything that’s happened. We’ve been cooperating with the NCAA, and obviously they’ll be dealing with whatever is coming out in terms of the facts of the case. But I haven’t been in communication with the administrative staff in terms of that regard.”
On if experience can still win in college basketball:
“I think experience wins early, and then that’s where freshmen and younger players are infused and where you -- you’re either going to grow, how can you get better in certain areas. But I worked for a great coach in Jim Boeheim, and he used to say you win with veterans early, so to have a veteran team coming back, that’s a luxury. We’re excited about that. They’ve figured out how to win, now can they be consistent with that, and we’ll see.”
On if there were any changes to current Defensive Player of the Year Matisse Thybulle’s defense in the offseason:
“No, he was just Spider-Man. Like he’s a superhero. Like he’s created -- it’s interesting, back when being part of the zone for so many years at Syracuse, it was that defense, it was like playing against the Princeton offense, they put us in the bracket with Princeton, it’s going to be back-doored to death, and the zone has that mental piece. You saw Michigan State versus Syracuse this year in the tournament, and it’s stifling when it’s rolling. When the coaching staff recommended about putting Matisse up top, we were going against the grain. But he understood it, and his anticipation skills — you know, it’s just uncanny. It’s become in the minds of your opponents, and that’s when you know your defense is really good. He’s just a disruptive guy.”