A few weeks ago, Mike Hopkins noted two traits needed to navigate the upcoming 2020-21 men’s basketball season: flexibility and mental toughness.
The Huskies coach could have included a sense of humor and a calendar considering the numerous scheduling changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The games haven’t started for Washington, but it’s preparing to face its third season-opening opponent.
So mark this down in pencil because quite possibly anything can change in the next few days, but the Huskies are slated to start the season on Sunday in Las Vegas against … wait for it … No. 2 Baylor.
If you’re keeping notes at home, the Bears are a substantial upgrade from the previous teams UW had planned to face in the season opener.
Originally, Washington was scheduled to play Tulane on Nov. 14 in China before those plans were scrapped by the Pac-12.
Then UW had to pull the plug on the Husky Classic, a four-team tournament featuring Portland State, San Diego and Cal State Fullerton that was set to tip off this week at Alaska Airlines Arena due to COVID-19 issues with the visiting teams.
The late cancellation meant Washington would have had to wait until Dec. 3 to start the season with a Pac-12 game at Utah.
Baylor was in a similar situation and desperate to find a nonconference opponent after coach Scott Drew tested positive for COVID-19 last Sunday, which led to the Bears withdrawing from this week’s Empire Classic tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Baylor’s game versus Seton Hall on Sunday was also canceled.
Essentially, Washington replaces Seton Hall on Baylor’s schedule and the game will be played at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The time and television information is still being finalized.
Last year, the Huskies stunned then-No. 16 Baylor and handed the Bears a 67-64 defeat in Anchorage, Alaska.
By lieu of its preseason ranking, the Bears are a national championship contender led by player of the year candidate Jared Butler.
Baylor returns four starters and six of its top eight scorers from a team that finished 26-4 last season and was on track for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before the season was canceled.
Butler, a junior guard who averaged 16.0 points last season, senior guard MaCio Teague (13.9 ppg.) and junior guard Davion Mitchell (9.9) comprise one of best backcourts in the country.
Still, it remains to be seen if Baylor opens the season with Drew, who is still in quarantine. Baylor assistant Jerome Tang will reportedly coach Sunday’s game.
Since Hopkins’ arrival in 2017, Washington is 4-7 against ranked teams.
The Huskies were picked ninth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. UW returns three starters (point guard Quade Green, guard Jamal Bey and forward Hameir Wright) from a team that finished 15-17 last season as was last in the Pac-12 at 5-13.
The Huskies revamped the backcourt with a trio of transfers including Erik Stevenson, Cole Bajema and Nate Pryor.