This was supposed to be a relatively easy week for the Huskies before COVID-19 postponed a couple of games in December, which were rescheduled for February.
So now the Washington men’s basketball team ends the season with what coach Mike Hopkins called “an NBA-type of schedule” highlighted by five games in 11 days.
On Wednesday, the Huskies travel to Pullman to face Washington State in a game that was originally scheduled for Dec. 29 and needed to be called off due to a COVID outbreak within the Cougars’ program.
The in-state rivals play again Saturday in Seattle at Alaska Airlines Arena in an unusual Apple Cup rematch.
“The way the schedule has been with COVID and a lot of makeup games … it’s tough on a lot of teams,” Hopkins said during a teleconference interview Monday. “It should be exciting. In the second game, it’s more like the NBA in that you can make adjustments based on the first one. And the first one is going to be like any other game.”
Washington wraps up with Monday’s game against No. 12 UCLA, a March 3 matchup with Oregon and Senior Night celebrations in the March 5 regular-season finale against Oregon State.
The Bruins’ game was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 and needed to be postponed following UW COVID protocols.
“Yeah, the schedule gets crazy, but it’s not too much,” senior guard Jamal Bey said Saturday following a 76-50 loss at UCLA. “We got a lot of games coming at us pretty fast. … The most important thing is trying to stay fresh and bringing as much energy as you can.”
Energy might be in short supply for Washington, which could be missing two starters in senior guard Daejon Davis (right shoulder) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (concussion).
Davis has missed four games while Matthews sat out the second half of Saturday’s loss at UCLA.
Hopkins said they’re listed as day-to-day for Wednesday.
“I hope day-to-day becomes today,” he added.
Washington, which has a three-game losing streak and has dropped four of its past five games, is in a tailspin that threatens to ruin a once-promising season.
The Huskies are 13-12 overall and sixth in the Pac-12 at 8-7. With just five regular-season games remaining, UW is falling out of contention for a coveted top-four finish in the Pac-12 race, which guarantees a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
“Every game is important,” Hopkins said last week in Los Angeles. “You can’t cherry pick and say, we’re going to gear up for this one or that one. … What did Al Davis (used) to say? ‘Just win baby.’ That’s where we’re at.”
The same can be said for Washington State.
Not so long ago, the Cougars were on a path to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2008. Two weeks ago, Washington State was 14-7 and 7-3 in the Pac-12 with a lofty No. 36 NET ranking.
After five straight losses, WSU is now 14-12 and 7-8 while still maintaining an impressive No. 48 NET ranking despite an 0-6 record in Quad 1 games.
For perspective, UW has never ranked higher than No. 128 in the NET rankings this season and currently sits at No. 132, which makes it virtually impossible for the Huskies to capture one of the 36 NCAA tournament at-large berths considering the Selection Committee reliance on the evaluation tool.
Theoretically, Washington State, which finishes with back-to-back games against Washington and Oregon State before a home finale against Oregon, could revive its postseason hopes with a five-game winning streak and a couple of upset victories in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The hard-luck Cougars are 0-6 in games decided by 3 points or fewer, including Sunday’s 62-60 loss at then-No. 17 USC, which was decided on Trojan Boogie Ellis’ shot with 0.2 seconds left.
It was a bizarre game for Washington State, which converted 15 of 31 three-point attempts and was just 5 of 32 inside the arc.
“This is a team that for the most part in the Pac-12 has been the best defensive team in the league in terms of efficiency,” Hopkins said when asked about WSU. “And then offensively, the biggest weapon in the game is the three-point shot; and I think they’re the best three-point shooting team in the league. They pose a lot of problems. It should be a great, great game.”
UW is 5-5 against WSU in the past 10 meetings.