#136 Washington Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Washington Huskies
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #10 Pac-12
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Washington’s 2016-2017 season can be simply described as an absolute disaster. At one point last spring, Washington had a top ten roster on paper and their future looked extremely bright, but that came crashing down when freshmen Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss entered the NBA draft. No one could have expected this development when Murray and Chriss began their freshman year, and Lorenzo Romar was justifiably not prepared to replace these immensely talented players. However, Washington was still projected to make the NCAA tournament because they enrolled the future top draft pick Markelle Fultz. This projection ended up looking ridiculous as Washington stumbled to a 9-22 record caused by an ineffective defense and turnover prone offense. Lorenzo Romar was fired after 15 seasons as Washington’s coach and the end of his career will be defined by being unable to win with elite recruits and NBA talent. Romar even had Michael Porter Jr., the top high school player in the country, signed to play at Washington, but it was not enough to save his job. Mike Hopkins will take over as head coach. Hopkins served on Jim Boeheim’s staff for 21 years at Syracuse and will now finally have the chance to take over his own program. Whether Hopkins plays man or Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone, he will need to get much more effort on defense if Washington is to have any success at all.
2016-17 Record: 9-22, 2-16
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Mike Hopkins
Coach Record:  0-0 at Washington, 4-5 overall
Who’s Out:
Unfortunately for Washington, Markelle Fultz’s only year in Seattle did not result in many wins. Fultz, however, had an unbelievable statistical season and it would be foolish to pretend a player of his caliber will not be missed. Even though Fultz was only a freshman, he led all high major players in scoring. He filled the stat sheet in every major category since he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting an efficient 47.6% from the field. Fultz can do it all on the court, but drew criticism for his casual play, especially on defense. Malik Dime was the first post player off the bench for Washington last season. Dime was an enigma defensively because even though he was a great shot blocker, the senior center was often inattentive or lost on defense. He averaged 2.5 blocks per game, which would have led the Pac-12 if he had played enough games to qualify. Dime also averaged 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game. Matthew Atewe did not crack the rotation in his time with the Huskies. The 6-8 big man will be a grad transfer for Pepperdine this season.
Who’s In:
Washington brings five freshmen into the program for Mike Hopkins’ first recruiting class. The biggest addition is top 100 guard Jaylen Nowell, who should join the starting lineup immediately. Nowell has good size for a shooting guard at 6-5 and can score in a variety of ways. His mix of skill and athleticism could make him a future star at Washington, but he should average 8 or 9 points per game and be a major contributor in his freshman season. Hameir Wright was a late addition to Washington’s 2017 recruiting class as he recently reclassified from 2018. Wright is a long athletic combo forward who can stretch the defense with his jumper and drive past bigger defenders. Wright will be a matchup nightmare due to his versatile skill set. Washington needed a player like Wright who can play the small ball four while not giving up size and rebounding.
It seems like you can’t bring up incoming freshman Nahziah Carter without mentioning that he is Jay Z’s nephew, but the 6-6 forward has the talent to move past this anecdote and be known as a capable basketball player. Carter is an athletic wing who could factor into the rotation immediately due to his ability to play multiple positions. He has a very versatile skillset, which could make him excel as a small ball power forward. Carter is a former Dayton signee who was released from his commitment when Archie Miller left for Indiana. Nate Pryor will serve as the backup PG during his freshman season and the 6-0 guard should provide depth behind Crisp. Michael Carter III is a 6-4 wing who is entering his freshman season. Carter III will likely be stuck behind more experienced wings in the rotation and will likely provide depth.
Who to Watch:
Even though Markelle Fultz is gone, Washington still has some talent and returns three double figure scorers. Junior guard David Crisp is the leading returning scorer at 13.8 per game and shot 36.9% from three. Crisp will need to adjust to playing point guard full time and will need to become more of a facilitator for Washington’s offense to thrive. While talented, his decision making could use improvement as some of his shots and drives to the basket were too wild and led to turnovers. Washington desperately needs Crisp to run the offense and cut down on his mistakes. The best recruit that Coach Hopkins landed this spring was getting Noah Dickerson to return to Washington. The burly 6-8 and 245 pound big man explored transfer opportunities before deciding to return for his junior season. Dickerson averaged 12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore, but could put up huge numbers this year if he gets the appropriate amount of touches. Dickerson is a great interior scorer who uses his size, quickness, and soft touch to score around the rim, but he was often ignored on offense. He should get a post touch on every possession and the Washington offense should be run through him especially in the post Fultz era. Dickerson would benefit greatly from playing with better perimeter shooters so he can have more space to work inside and shooters to pass to when the double team comes. Washington does have one great perimeter shooter in 6-5 wing Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle is an athletic wing who averaged 10.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game on 40.5% from three. The junior is a great spot up shooter, but he can also put the ball on the floor and hit a pull up jumper. Thybulle is an underrated NBA prospect who fits the 3 and D mold due to his athleticism and shooting stroke. Crisp, Dickerson, and Thybulle have all played major minutes and have started many games in their first two seasons in the Pac-12. As juniors, these three standouts need to become leaders and excel in greater roles if Washington is to get out of the Pac-12 basement.
Sam Timmins adds some serious size to the Huskies’ frontline. Listed at 6-11 and 265 pounds, Timmins has size to defend the post and has shown a willingness to mix it up inside to grab rebounds. Timmins was a starter for most of his freshman season, but could move to a reserve role in order to put a more athletic lineup on the floor. Luckily for Timmins, Coach Hopkins has had success using players his size like Arinze Onuaku and Fab Melo while he was at Syracuse. Timmins averaged 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman. Carlos Johnson and Dominic Green have factored into the rotation for their entire careers and should earn minutes again this season. Johnson is a 6-3 sophomore guard who joined the starting lineup by the end of last season. He averaged 5.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, but shot a paltry 21.9% from three. Green is a 6-6 wing and averaged 5.5 points per game. Green also struggled to shoot from the perimeter, shooting 28% from three. If Johnson and Green could just become average shooters, they would make Washington significantly more potent on offense because Dickerson and Crisp would have more spacing, which would make them more effective scorers. Bitumba Baruti did not play a significant role as a freshman, but his positional versatility could allow him to crack the rotation as a sophomore. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Baruti could be a small ball power forward if the Huskies choose to go with a smaller lineup. Devenir Duruisseau is a foul prone post player who has played sparingly in his two seasons at Washington. Duruisseau could play more this season under the new coaching staff especially because he is one of three traditional big men on the roster and will provide depth at center. Dan Kingma is a former walk-on who played some legitimate minutes at point guard last season when Fultz was hurt and will provide depth as a senior.
Final Projection:
Expect Washington to use Dickerson at center and one of their many wings as a small ball power forward for long stretches based on their roster makeup. There are only three traditional post players on the roster, but Washington has a bevy of wings and could play three of them at once. This should create more spacing on offense and more defensive versatility as playing Dickerson and Timmins together could crowd the paint and they could struggle to guard more perimeter oriented big man. Washington returns some talented players that have played major minutes in the Pac-12 and add a few talented newcomers to their core. This formula should allow the Huskies to jump a few spots in the conference standings as long as they are more committed to defending. Washington’s defense last season was apathetic at best, but there is some talent on the roster for Mike Hopkins to get this program trending in the right direction. The X-factor is David Crisp. Even though he is the team’s leading returning scorer, Crisp needs to become more of a facilitator and play more under control. A 1.65:1 assist to turnover ratio is not going to cut it for a Pac-12 starting lead guard. Washington is probably a year away from contending for a NCAA tournament berth, but expect the Huskies to make some progress despite losing number one pick Markelle Fultz.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT/V16
Projected Starting Five:
David Crisp, Junior, Guard, 13.8 points per game
Jaylen Nowell, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Carlos Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Matisse Thybulle, Junior, Forward, 10.5 points per game
Noah Dickerson, Junior, Forward, 12.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.4 (102nd in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 81.1 (329, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.8 (145, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 46.6 (306, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (182, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.4 (155, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.4 (315, 12)
Rebound Margin: 2.1 (117, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.2 (196, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.7 (248, 11)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#65 Jaylen Nowell