2018 Washington Huskies Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how Washington snuck into the Top 25, grabbing the final spot in the preseason AP poll. The team that won a respectable enough 21 games last year had four scorers who averaged double-digits. All four are back for more, and three of them are seniors. Scorers number five, six, seven and nine in the team's nine-man rotation are back as well, though not as productive as the top four. An experienced team under a second-year coach who should have his systems more dialed in now since this is his first head coaching job - sounds like a recipe for some success. And in a conference that has only three ranked teams, and none higher than 14th, some success is all you need to do some nice things.
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Washington Huskies Additions/Losses
Six players who started the season with the team last year are gone - three by transfer, two by graduation, and one due to a personal decision just a game into the season. Five had little impact, though, and the sixth was far from a decision-maker. Sophomore guard Carlos Johnson transferred to Grand Canyon University - his decision tells you a lot about his impact - after scoring 3.8 points per game in an average of just 8.5 minutes. He had played a much bigger role as a freshman, but the coaching change did not work out well for him.
There is one player transferring in, but it is hard to get too excited about it. Redshirt sophomore Travis Rice left Northern Arizona after play just one game during his freshman season in 2016-17. He is the son of Washington assistant Dave Rice, and is joining the team as a walk-on. The team will be expecting more of an impact from a five-person recruiting class, but it is far from an elite class, and the freshmen aren't likely to drive this team. The player most likely to have an impact now is point guard Elijah Hardy. The point guard play was weak last year, and backup Michael Carter transferred, so Hardy has some minutes to eat up. Small forward Jamal Bey was ranked just outside the Top 100 recruits but likely won't play much this year. A redshirt is possible. The same goes for power forward Nate Roberts, who needs time to grow into his big frame. Center Bryan Penn-Johnson, a seven-foot giant, could see some time as the team could use a rim protector, but he won't play a major role without time. The fifth freshman, 7-foot-4 center Riley Sorn, joins as a preferred walk-on and is a project. His upside is obvious if he can effectively capitalize on his size, but he is just a low-risk gamble at this point.
Washington Huskies Outlook
The team leads the country in returning minutes from last season - more than 95 percent are back. But it remains to be seen how much of a positive that is. David Crisp was a pretty underwhelming point guard, averaging just 3.1 assists in almost 35 minutes per game. Four guys scored more than 70 percent of their points. There are depth concerns for sure, but there are real benefits as well. Matisse Thybulle, now a senior, was named Pac-12 defensive player of the year last year - in a league that featured DeAndre Ayton, among others. Michael Dickerson is the top returning rebounder in the conference and the fifth-best scorer returning. Jaylen Nowell is the third-leading returning scorer. There are some nice pieces here. But are there enough of them? Do they have the depth they need? And how much more upside is there this year when Crisp, Thybulle and Dickerson are all seniors? Nowell can improve plenty in his sophomore season, and the others can gain comfort in the second year of a new system, but to be a tournament team and a ranked team at the end of the year this team needs to take real steps forward. The path to better is here, but it remains to be seen if the path to better enough can be found.
Washington Huskies Schedule
It's a reasonably tough nonconference schedule, so we will have a good sense of what this team is before Pac-12 play begins. The second game of the season is at Auburn, in a rematch of the Washington football team's opener that didn't go too well. This game likely won't go that well, either - Auburn is ranked 11th and looks good. They cross the border for the Vancouver Showcase, a new preseason tournament that will see them play Santa Clara, Texas A&M and Minnesota over four days. It's a manageable group, and if Washington is indeed ready to take a step forward they should sweep that table. In December, though, they play two much tougher games. First, they travel up the road to Spokane to play a loaded Gonzaga team. Then they head to Atlantic City to play Virginia Tech, the 15th -ranked team in the preseason poll. If the Huskies can find a win in one of their three toughest games, they will really make a statement. I am not optimistic.
The conference schedule is manageable - it's tough to have a brutal schedule in this conference right now. They get a bit of a break playing UCLA only once and getting them at home. There is a tough three-game road stretch that will be a test, though - they play at the two Arizona teams in three days and then play at Washington State before returning home.
Washington Huskies Futures Odds
Though they are ranked 25th in the AP poll, oddsmakers are much less optimistic - as I am. Bovada has listed national title futures odds for 51 teams this year. Washington sits at +20000, which is tied with three other teams and behind all 47 others.
Washington Huskies Predictions
I will not be ordering my Huskies swag. I don't buy what they are selling. They should be a little better than last year, and they could easily be a top three team in the Pac-12. But being a top three Pac-12 team doesn't real add up to much nationally, and I don't see a path to national relevance for this lineup.
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