SEATTLE – David Crisp, Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle all arrived at Washington with the task of being the group to get the Huskies back to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s a challenge that remains after three years, a coaching change, a chance to leave for other opportunities and now, the hope that the task accepted when they arrived might finally be accomplished.
Washington begins the season with the kind of optimism that has been missing from the program since the early part of this decade and the last time it was in the NCAAs. The Huskies were No. 25 in the preseason AP Top 25 and picked to finish third in the preseason Pac-12 poll. The vastly higher expectations are part of a remarkable turnaround coach Mike Hopkins has engineered in 18 months on the job.
But proving the Huskies are worthy of their standing in the conference and nationally is the next step in Hopkins’ development of the program.
“We’ve got a lot of potential to be really good. Really good. The only thing that can stop us is us,” Crisp said.
Crisp and Thybulle will be at the heart of Washington’s success and each plays a critical role. Crisp is the point guard in charge of making sure the offensive runs efficiently. Thybulle may be the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and arguably is the biggest key to Washington’s zone defense. Throw in sophomore scorer Jaylen Nowell and 3-point threat Dominic Green, and the Huskies have the makings of a team that has the right mix to be among the Pac-12 elite.
Dickerson is the inside presence who improved dramatically as a junior and needs to be just as good again.
Freshman big Bryan Penn-Johnson supplies size, wing Jamal Bey athleticism on the perimeter.
Mike Hopkins enters his second season, and the expectations are already through the roof, in part because the Huskies beat preseason No. 7 Nevada by 18 on the road in an exhibition game.
“It hasn’t been done in a while, unfortunately,” Thybulle said of making the NCAAs. “We have all the pieces necessary to do it. We’ve all gotten better, myself included, and I think that would be the perfect way for me to end it.”
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