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Pac-12 Basketball Team Preview: Optimism And Uncertainty Surround Mike Hopkins’ Debut Season At Washington

It’s more questions than answers at this stage of the game for Washington.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Huskies

  • Last Season: 9-22 (2-16)
  • Head Coach: Mike Hopkins (1st Season)
  • Projected Media Poll Finish: 10th (71 Points)
  • Leading Returner In Scoring: David Crisp (13.8 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Rebounds: Noah Dickerson (8.2 RPG)
  • Leading Returner In Assists: David Crisp (3.1 APG)

The Skinny

After last season’s confusing 9-22 campaign, that still saw guard Markelle Fultz become the top pick in the NBA Draft, Washington opted for a change at the top of their program, swapping out veteran program director Lorenzo Romar this off-season for seasoned Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins. So, for the first time in a long-time (since 2002 to be exact), the Huskies will enter the 2017-2018 season under new leadership and with a new direction. Now it’s time to see how well it’ll pay off in the short-term.

The bad news for Hopkins entering his debut outing is that there’s not another talent on this roster even close to the caliber of Fultz, who led the team with 23.2 points and 5.9 assists per game a season ago and completely dominated the flow of the offense. And while Fultz is quite a void to replace, a more balanced and manufactured approach is already taking shape under the first year head man, anchored by key returning guard David Crisp (13.8 PPG).

NCAA Basketball: Washington at UCLA
David Crisp will try to anchor a revival of the Washington program.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Crisp, who will have to be one of the on-court leaders for this squad, along with fellow returning forward Noah Dickerson (12.5 PPG) and swingman Matisse Thybulle (10.5 PPG), is a steady and calming presence who will be asked to guide this group from the get-go. So as long as Crisp doesn’t try to overpower the control of the ball (as Fultz often did last year), he can distribute to a core of the four top returning scorers not named Fultz, that still remain as suitable options for the Huskies.

What will likely make-or-break Washington’s season, besides how well they adjust to the new philosophy under Hopkins, is what kind of progress pieces like Carlos Johnson (5.9 PPG) and Dominic Green (5.5 PPG) can make with another campaign under their belt and just how impactful a much-heralded rookie core truly is. Hopkins used his upstate New York connections to quickly scrap together a four-man class for 2017, scooping up forwards Nahziah Carter (Rochester, NY) and Hameir Wright (Albany, NY), while also landing two top Seattle-based products in the back-court duo of Jaylen Nowell and Michael Carter III.

In all, the cupboard definitely isn’t all that bare for Hopkins but there’s a lot of pieces that he’ll be trusting this season who were big parts of last year’s 9-win campaign. Simply put, Washington will need to learn how to pick up victories on the fly, which is always easier said than done in a conference like the Pac-12, under a brand new head coach.

Player To Know: Noah Dickerson (JR)

A four-star prospect coming out of high school who now finds himself situated on NBA Draft boards, Washington forward Noah Dickerson has been a focal point on opposing coaches’ scouting reports since his high school days. However, with Markelle Fultz now having departed campus, Dickerson will sit alongside David Crisp as the two biggest talents on this Huskies depth chart, that every coach on their schedule will be hoping to contain. A talent who plays with high-energy and likes to throw his body around in the paint, Dickerson is one of those “heart and soul” type of pieces, who serves as the emotional leader to the group both on and off-the-court, through both success and adversity. If Washington begins to creep up the Pac-12 standings this season in a surprise breakthrough effort, don’t be shocked to see Dickerson’s improved play as the main catalyst for such a feat.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Utah
Noah Dickerson will be one of the physical and emotional leaders for the Huskies this season.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Key Non-Conference Games

  • 11/16 v. Providence* (2K Classic)
  • 12/6 v. Kansas*
  • 12/10 v. Gonzaga