Fifteen games down and 15 (maybe) remain for the Washington men’s basketball team, which hit the midpoint of the season on a high note after last week’s two-game winning streak. 

At 8-7 and 3-2 in the Pac-12, the Huskies are faring better than many predicted, considering they were picked 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.  

Following a disappointing 5-5 record in nonconference games, the basketball analytic website KenPom.com predicted UW would finish 6-23 overall and 1-18 in the Pac-12. 

In his latest weekly Pac-12 men’s basketball power rankings, San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner slotted UW at No. 8 and said coach Mike Hopkins would be forgiven if he privately wanted the season to end now that the Huskies have shown progress and are above .500. 

It’s an interesting observation on the state of the Huskies and Hopkins, whose future is seemingly in peril following last season’s 5-21 debacle.  

After back-to-back losing seasons, Hopkins needed to give UW athletic director Jen Cohen a legitimate reason why he should return for a sixth season other than the $9.3 million and three years remaining on his contract. 

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At times this season, especially in their 67-64 win over Stanford on Saturday, the Huskies have resembled the UW team that won the 2018-19 Pac-12 regular-season title and advanced to the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. 

When Washington led by 22 points and forced a season-high-tying 21 turnovers against the Cardinal, the Huskies looked like they were finally beginning to jell after months of fits and starts. 

“Obviously you want to keep momentum,” Hopkins said during a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I think the biggest for us is how do we keep getting better? … As much as we played really well in a lot of spurts, there’s a lot of room for growth and that’s what we’re focused on. 

“We believe that if we keep doing that, then we’ll give ourselves chances to win every game that we play.” 

Before Washington plays Oregon State (3-15, 1-5) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Gill Coliseum, we’ll review the first half of the season and hand out midseason grades before taking a look at what’s ahead for the Huskies. 

Terrell Brown Jr. — The fifth-year senior and Arizona transfer leads the Pac-12 in scoring and ranks 13th in the nation among Division I players while averaging 21.0 points per game and shooting 45% on field goals. He’s also first in the Pac-12 in steals (41) and tied for fourth in assists (60). If Brown maintains this pace and UW secures a top-6 finish, then he would have a compelling case for Pac-12 MVP. Grade A+ 

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Emmitt Matthews Jr. — The West Virginia transfer is having a career year in scoring (11.3 points per game) and rebounds (4.8). Matthews has lived up the billing as a long, lanky defensive-minded 6-7 forward who can provide a spark with highflying dunks and timely three-pointers. Grade B +

PJ Fuller — It’s easy to envision the backup junior guard stepping into Brown’s role next season as the No. 1 scoring option. The TCU transfer averages 8.3 ppg. and has shown flashes of potential, including a season-high 21-point outing against George Mason. Fuller is a tenacious on-ball defender who has 17 steals, but needs to make drastic improvements rebounding (1.6) and directing the offense (1.1 apg.) Grade B 

Jamal Bey — Everyone urged the third-year senior starter to take more threes after he shot 50.7% behind the line last season. Bey is averaging four three-point attempts this season, which is roughly one more than last season, but his efficiency has fallen off to 31.7% from long range. His career-high 4.1 rebounds per game has offset his scoring dip (9.0 ppg. from 10.3 ppg. last season). Grade B

Daejon Davis — Aside from his 34 steals, which ranks second in the Pac-12, the Stanford transfer is statistically having the worst season of his five-year career. He’s averaging 8.3 points, 2.7 assists and shooting 33.3% on FGs and 31.1% on three-pointers — all career lows. And yet, Davis averages 31.2 minutes and has been a fixture in multiple lineups because Hopkins said “he’s a calming presence out there and his teammates love him.” Grade B- 

Cole Bajema — If not for an unbelievable road trip two weeks ago to Utah and Colorado when he connected on 11 of 15 three-pointers, the first half of the season would have been forgettable for the backup junior guard who transferred from Michigan in 2020. Bajema has to knock down perimeter shots to be effective and he’s shooting a team-high 39.5% on threes. Grade C 

Nate Roberts — It’s no coincidence Washington had its two best games last week when the 6-11 junior center played 30 minutes in each outing. Considering the Huskies’ defensive woes — they rank 347th nationally in rebounding margin — Roberts is arguably the most important UW player because of his team-leading 6.5 rpg. Washington is 5-0 when he grabs eight rebounds. Inexplicably, his FG% has fallen dramatically to 38.9% and he’s connected on just 42.5% (17 of 40) free throws. Grade C 

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Jackson Grant — It’s puzzling why the touted freshman forward and 2021 McDonald’s All-American is having difficulty finding a productive role in the rotation. His best game — seven points and four rebounds — was on Nov. 11 against Northern Arizona. He’s just averaging 0.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 8.4 minutes against Pac-12 teams. Grade C- 

Langston Wilson — The Georgia Highlands College transfer is a primary option when Roberts struggles. While averaging 10.0 minutes off the bench, the 6-9 junior forward has shown an ability to play above the rim. Still, he’s limited offensively while shooting just 29% on FGs and could earn more minutes if he improved his rebounding (2.8). Grade C- 

Sam Ariyibi and Riley Sorn — Injuries have kept them off the court. Ariyibi, who is recovering from a high-ankle sprain, has appeared in just four games. Sorn, who has only played two games, was sidelined early in the season due to a back injury and has missed the past four games because of COVID protocols. Grade Incomplete 

Mike Hopkins — An upset win or two against ranked teams would go a long way in soothing the sting from those four nonconference home losses to mid-majors that could ultimately decide the season and his fate. Hopkins is putting his faith in UW’s ball hawking zone defense, which ranks ninth among Division I teams in forcing turnovers (18.1 per game), and a core of veteran newcomers led by Brown. Grade C 

Forecast — Currently there are 13 games on the schedule and Washington is waiting to hear from the Pac-12 about when postponed games against UCLA and Washington State will be rescheduled. In February, UW has a three-game stretch starting with a home game against No. 3 Arizona followed by road games versus No. 16 USC and No. 9 UCLA, which could be opportunistic or painful depending on the outcome. 

There appears to be parity in the middle and at the bottom of the Pac-12, which Washington can exploit. If the Huskies continue to play like they have the past two weeks, then they’ll go 8-7 in their remaining 15 games and finish 16-14 overall and 11-9 in the Pac-12.  

And that’s a whole lot better than 5-21.