Posted on November 14, 2020
2020 Recruiting Class: 12th in Pac-12 (Unranked Nationally)
Cole Bajema, Guard, Michigan (Awaiting NCAA Decision on Waiver)
Erik Stevenson, Guard, Wichita State (Immediately Eligible)
Nate Pryor, Guard, North Idaho College (Immediately Eligible)
Big Picture: Player Issues Complicate Potential Outcomes
The Huskies fell off a cliff in 2019-20 after point guard Quade Green was ruled academically ineligible at the beginning of January. The Dawgs were 11-4 at that point, but finished the season 4-13 without Green to run the offense.
Internal problems appeared to boil to the surface in the latter part of the season, and Jaden McDaniels even lost his starting role at one point. The conspicuous tension with McDaniels arguably impacted Mike Hopkins’ ability to recruit, as the fourth-year coach dipped into the transfer market to fill in his 2020 class.
Of the three signed, Nate Pryor and Erik Stevenson have been granted immediate eligibility, with the NCAA decision on Cole Bajema yet to be made public.
Bajema’s situation is different. The sophomore guard seems to have left Michigan because of a lack of playing time, and the NCAA is notoriously inconsistent with their rulings on cases like his.
Best guess: Bajema has to sit the year out.
Complicating UW’s preseason picture is the suspension of Nahziah Carter. The guard averaged 12.2 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game last year, and projected to play a prominent role in 2020-21. Losing Carter for any amount of time would be a blow, though Hopkins is hopeful he will be able to play.
With all the drama built up during the summer, it’s easy to lose focus on key role players who must step up this year: Specifically, Raequan Battle, Marcus Tsohonis, and reserve big man Nate Roberts. The three each carved out a role in 2019-20, but the trio have the potential to become key contributors moving forward.
Battle and Tsohonis are both outside shooters that will see more playing time, although Roberts’ role is more questionable. With fantastic size and rebounding ability, any improvement he can bring to the table would undoubtedly make the Huskies a better team.
Similarly, forward J’Raan Brooks is eligible this year after transferring from USC and sitting out last season. His presence down low could go far in contributing to UW’s success.
Reasonable Expectations: Top-Half Finish, Big Dance Bid
With remaining questions about player eligibility, it’s anyone’s guess what to expect from the Dawgs. Assuming everyone is eligible, the team is capable of finishing in the top half of the Pac-12 with a chance for an at-large bid to the Big Dance.
Hopkins’ zone defense is able to frustrate any team the Huskies face, putting the onus on his offense to be the difference-maker. Even during the lowest points of last season, Washington was losing games by only a handful of points, and were ahead in the second half in most contests.
All eyes will be on Green to get it done on offense this time around. And based on his performances from last year, that shouldn’t be a problem.
At the least, a .500 record or better at home against Conference opponents seems reasonable, along with road victories over Oregon State, Washington State, and California.
Achievable Goal: Upset a Ranked Opponent at Home
Finding a way to beat a ranked opponent at Alaska Airlines Arena is a distinct possibility. The lack of fans could make the goal more difficult, but UW has the talent on the floor to get it done.
More importantly, Hopkins has a well-defined defensive philosophy adopted from the legendary Jim Boeheim, which should allow the Dawgs to upset a team or two on the road.
As the old saying goes, “Defense travels.”
Green and Company’s scoring ability, particularly on the perimeter—where Hopkins appears to have the most talent—could be the deciding factor in close games away from Seattle. As a comparison, last season UCLA built its confidence, and arguably the program’s identity, by winning away from home with strong defense.
On paper, Hopkins’ unit has the potential to match that performance and catapult Washington back into the upper-tier of the Conference standings, where they were just a few short years ago.
Best Case: First-Round Pac-12 Win, Improved Recruiting
Carter returns at the beginning of the season, and the Husky perimeter players knock down their three’s with more consistency. Green leads the program to a 7-seed or better in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Dawgs win their opening game in Las Vegas but lose to a Top 4 seed in the second round.
Hopkins lands a Top 100 prospect and another quality transfer from a respected program as recruiting returns to normal.
Though the season has its ups and downs, the ship is righted in Seattle.
— Previous 2020-21 Basketball Previews —
Have a question for Dane? Ask it here.
—Recent Dane Miller Stories—
- Miller: 2020-21 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Outlook and Week 1 Previews
- Miller: 2020 Pac-12 Football Previews, Week 4
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 4
- Miller: Stellar Recruiting Class Gives Stanford Hoops Pac-12 Title Hopes
- Miller: Beavs Must Compensate for Loss of Tres Tinkle and Kylor Kelley
- Miller: Utah Hoops Must Stay Healthy and Win More on Road to Turn Corner
- Miller: 2020 Pac-12 Football Previews, Week 3
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 3
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Previews: Week 2
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 2
- Miller: Winning Season, More Success on Road Doable for Cougar Hoops
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Previews: Week 1
- 2020 Preseason Pac-12 Football Outlook and Predictions
- 2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 1
- Miller: A .500 Season Should be Within Reach for Cal Hoops
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Alaska Airlines Arena
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Beasley Coliseum
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Matthew Knight Arena
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Gill Coliseum
- Miller: Buffs Face Shortened Season with Litany of Questions
- Miller: Utes Must Find Key Replacements to Remain Competitive in 2020
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Cal’s Haas Pavilion
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Stanford’s Maples Pavilion
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: USC’s Galen Center
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Arizona’s McKale Center
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Arizona State’s Desert Financial Arena
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Colorado’s CU Events Center
- Scouting the Pac-12 Basketball Arenas: Utah’s John M. Huntsman Center
- Miller Mailbag: Weather Games, COVID-19 & Recruiting, UA Media Bias, and More
- Dane Miller: Lute Olson Changed Lives, Redefined Tucson as Basketball Family
- Miller: Pac-12 Coaches, Players & Fans Deserved Better
- Stanford Needs Talented Newcomers to Step Up
- Experienced Bears Poised to Contend for North Division Title
- Youth Movement Key to Breakthrough Season for Wildcats
- 2020 SportsPac12 Southwest/Mountain All-Region Team
- Q&A with Pac-12 VP of Marketing Heather Vaughan
- If New Offense Takes, Sun Devils will Do Damage in South
- Miller Mailbag: International Restrictions Won’t Affect Arizona Hoops Players
- Rolovich’s Revamped Cougars Must Hit the Ground Running
Miller: 2020-21 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Outlook and Week 1 PreviewsThe season tips off with a slate of rescheduled games, including Oregon State vs. Cal - November 25, 2020
Miller: 2020 Pac-12 Football Previews, Week 4The Buffs and Trojans face off in the Game of the Week in the Conference - November 24, 2020
2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 4Our three senior Pac-12 football writers rank the teams based on recent performances - November 24, 2020