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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

On a night of upsets and near-misses, Mike Hopkins got his biggest win as a head coach. It’s a win that can really help set a tone in his first season in Seattle. It’s a win that tells you the Huskies should be a little more competitive than perhaps first thought.

And it’s a win that shows what this team can be. Because it’s not like the Huskies have lacked talent in recent years at all.

The long-time Syracuse assistant is not only at a job with access to plenty of talent up in the northwest and further down the coast. The team he inherited has some talent, too, especially since Noah Dickerson opted not to transfer after all. Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Jaylen Nowell all have good talent. The starting lineup, at least, is not bad for the Pac-12, and especially in a Pac-12 that hasn’t looked too good thus far. They bring an intriguing talent off the bench in Hameir Wright, who had six rebounds on Wednesday night.

Dickerson is the starting point, because the junior forward has long been on a lot of radars. Rare has been the player who plays up in the Georgia Stars program, where he played his travel ball in high school, and he did just that. While most elite programs have a bunch of players who play up at least one year, the Stars have typically gone against the grain and had kids play with their age group all along, including their best talent. They have produced some studs, too, who didn’t play up.

On Wednesday night, he posted his third double-double of the season and got help from the aforementioned teammates. More impressively, they held Kansas star senior Devonte Graham to just three points on 1-8 shooting and held second-leading scorer Sviatoslav Mykhailuk to eight points on 3-12 shooting. In all, Kansas was 5-20 from long range, while the Huskies shot 43 percent from deep.

Hopkins plays the 2-3 zone just like his mentor, but what the casual fan doesn’t notice is that Jim Boeheim doesn’t just throw five players out there and have them stand still in the zone. They do different things with it, from varying how and when they might trap to where the guards first pick up the ball. While open three-pointers are more often found against zones than against man, the reason the zone has succeeded is that teams will often settle for those shots instead of getting them in an offensive flow.

Hopkins wanted to take the three-pointer away more in this game, though, perhaps inspired by how the Jayhawks had a nice day against the Syracuse zone on Saturday, shooting 49 percent from the field including 11-31 from long range. Graham had 35 points in that one, going 10-17 from the field including 7-13 from deep.

One thing Wednesday night’s game does show is that this team can get better. Washington went 0-2 in New York in the 2K Classic earlier this year, and looked a bit out-classed by Providence and Virginia Tech. The same team went to Kansas City – basically a road game – and knocked off Kansas thanks to a solid all-around game.

While the fact that they beat Kansas will, by itself, be the big news, the real takeaway appears to be the sign that this team can get better and is doing just that. The results back that up right now.

 

Side Dishes

As noted, there were some upsets and near-misses on the evening. The big one was Florida losing a second straight home game, this time to Loyola (Ill.) as the Ramblers move to 9-1 overall. It’s also another nice win as part of the Missouri Valley Conference’s great non-conference run thus far. Georgia Tech went to Wofford and lost 63-60. Later, it was not such a good night overall for the Pac-12 as California suffered another big loss with Central Arkansas manhandling them 96-69 in Berkeley, and Idaho beat Washington State by an equal amount, 91-64.

In the near-miss category, we have Providence needing a big second half and then overtime to knock off cross-town rival Brown 77-72. The Friars trailed 40-28 at intermission. Meanwhile, Louisville‘s 86-60 margin of victory over Siena is a bit deceiving, as Siena led at halftime and the Cardinals didn’t look like they were in another class from the Saints for a while.

In the better matchups of the night, Temple edged Wisconsin 59-55, Middle Tennessee improved to 6-1 by knocking off host Vanderbilt 66-63, while Alabama edged Rhode Island 68-64 in Tuscaloosa. Wisconsin falls to 4-6, and while the Badgers have played a very tough schedule, they don’t have the wins to show for it to help later on. Middle Tennessee has played a nice schedule thus far, and it only gets tougher soon: Ole Miss, Auburn and Ivy League contender Princeton before Conference USA play begins.

UCLA canceled its game against Montana due to the wild fires near the campus. The school also canceled afternoon classes as fires burned over 150 acres just a couple of miles from campus, and it even led to the closure of Interstate 405 heading north, which led to even worse traffic issues than usual (if you can imagine it being any worse).

Boston College sustained another blow on Wednesday, as the school announced that Deontae Hawkins is done for the season due to a knee injury suffered at Nebraska a week earlier. This will only exacerbate the challenges the Eagles already face in the ACC, as the graduate transfer from Illinois State was the team’s clear leader and averaged a double-double before getting injured.

On a day NCAA president Mark Emmert spoke about the FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball and outlined the newly formed Commission on College Basketball, one prominent NBA agent is no more. Andy Miller, whose agency ASM Sports was raided by the FBI back in September, is no longer an NBA certified agent, a development that was really only a matter of time. Miller has represented some star players over the years, and while he will be gone, other agents in the company have continued to represent players and have not lost clients as a result of the probe.

 

Tonight’s Menu

On a light night, a few games stand out.

  • To lead off the evening, Valparaiso takes its undefeated mark into West Lafayette to take on Purdue (6:30 p.m.)
  • As Big Ten teams go back into non-conference play, Maryland hosts Ohio (7 p.m.)
  • Two former Southern Conference rivals who are off to a good start match up as Elon travels to UNCG (7 p.m.)
  • A good rivalry game is on tap as Iowa State hosts Iowa (8 p.m.)
  • Also in the Hawkeye State is a solid matchup of good mid-majors as UT-Arlington visits Northern Iowa (8 p.m.)

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