The Huskies (14-4, 5-0) are on top of the Pac-12, but are they any good? How did Noah Dickerson dominate Cal despite making just one shot? And what kind of impact would top recruiting target Isaiah Stewart make if he chooses UW?
Washington stumbled early and regained its footing late in the first half before crushing California in the second half in Saturday’s 71-52 win.
It was a historic win for the Huskies (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12), who won their seventh straight game and 1,000th at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Here are three impressions.
Noah Dickerson does the dirty work
It’s not often when a guy makes just one field goal and plays a critical role in the outcome. But that’s what Dickerson did. And truth be told, he’s been doing it all season. Even during his recent so-called scoring slump, Dickerson remains a central figure in UW’s offense. And Saturday afternoon was more of the same. The 6-foot-8 forward tallied just three points in 11 minutes — both season lows — in his previous outing on Thursday. Against California, Dickerson struggled to score against double teams in the post and converted just 1 of 3 attempts. But Dickerson still made an impact while drawing 13 fouls. To put it in context, the Golden Bears drew 19 fouls. Dickerson hit 10 of 15 free throws. He also collected 11 rebounds for his first double-double in six games and third of the season. Dickerson also had two steals and two assists to offset three turnovers. And he finished with a team-high +20 in the plus/minus ratio.
Are the Huskies any good?
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Honest answer: I don’t know because that’s a loaded question. The obvious indicators suggest the Huskies are playing at a high level. They’re first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 63.5 points in conference games. And they’re fourth in scoring at 77.8. Washington has a half-game lead over Arizona (14-5, 5-1) for first place in the Pac-12. But you also have to look at the opponents. Four of UW’s wins during 5-0 conference start have been against the bottom four teams in the league. And two of those teams (Washington State and Colorado) were without their best player (Robert Franks and McKinley Wright IV) for all or most of the game. The Huskies are 45th in KenPom rankings, 40th in the NCAA’s NET rankings and 32nd in RPI. As good as Washington has played recently, the team’s best win is a 71-67 victory over Texas A&M on a neutral court in Vancouver, B.C., back in November. There’s no denying Washington has put itself in a great position with a wonderful start in the Pac-12 and a terrific first half of the season. But UW fans have seen this before. Back in 2014-15, the Huskies started 14-4 before falling apart and winning two of the next 13 games. And last season, Washington was 7-3 in the Pac-12 before finishing 3-5 and making a first-round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament. So are the Huskies any good? Well, it’s complicated. Maybe Matisse Thybulle put it best Saturday night when he said: “We’re getting everyone’s best shot. It makes people want to beat us even more, and that means that we have to play even better. We’re accepting the challenge, and we’re going to take it head on, and it’s exciting.”
Decision Day for UWs top recruiting target
A lot of the postgame buzz after Saturday’s win focused on UW’s biggest recruiting target Isaiah Stewart, who will make his college choice Sunday afternoon on national television. Many recruiting analysts say the 6-foot-9 forward from Rochester, NY is going to pick Washington, which would be a tremendous recruiting win for the Huskies and Mike Hopkins. Stewart is rated the No. 5 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN and No. 6 by 247Sports. Washington signed guards RaeQuan Battle and Marcus Tsohonis last November, but Stewart is a program-changing player. Here’s a synopsis of UW’s fortunes next season. If sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell opts for the NBA draft and Washington doesn’t make any other significant additions, then with Nahziah Carter as the leader and Quade Green joining the team after the nonconference season, then UW wins about 10 games. If Nowell returns, then Nowell and Carter can carry the Huskies to 15 or so wins. If Stewart joins the mix, add five more wins and UW is up to 20. Throw in Federal Way star Jaden McDaniels, and that’s another five victories, and now you’re looking at a 25-win team that’s contending for a Pac-12 title and making a deep push in the NCAA tournament. That’s how fickle — I believe — UW’s future is at the moment. And it all becomes a little more clearer Sunday afternoon.