One of the strangest University of Washington basketball seasons in program annals — global pandemic notwithstanding — comes down to a final week of conference games and whatever postseason tournament play the Huskies can muster.
At one point sporting a 1-11 record, they were one of the worst teams in the nation, but they've fixed that with the stray victory here and there.
By beating California on Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies (5-17 overall, 4-13 Pac-12) likely assured themselves of avoiding a second consecutive last-place finish in the conference.
No matter what the Huskies do, Cal's Bad News Bears (8-17, 3-15), coached by former UW assistant coach Mark fox, are so inept there's probably little chance they're going to beat either seventh-place Oregon State (11-11, 7-9) or third-place Oregon (14-4, 9-3) this coming week at home and escape the cellar.
At 3-16, Mike Hopkins' guys were flirting with becoming the worst UW team of the 119 fielded by the school. Again, their recent flourish of wins over WSU and Cal over the past week will enable them to avert ultimate despair.
His Huskies now are in the midst of a schedule overload.
They just played three games in six nights in Seattle and Pullman. They're about to play three more games in five nights in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona. Altogether, they will take on an exhausting eight games in 17 days.
"Our guys have to be mentally tough," Hopkins said. "We have to be gritty and go out and do the best we can."
Hopkins, who prefers to use an eight-man rotation, expects to summon practically all of his 10 scholarship players and 7-foot-4 walk-on Riley Sorn to get through this test of will.
That means players missing in action, such as sophomore RaeQuan Battle and junior-college transfer Nate Pryor, guards who didn't play against Cal, should reappear once more.
This means 6-9 sophomore J'Raan Brooks, a USC transfer who makes only sporadic appearances, should get off the bench for more quality time.
The Huskies face 10th-place Arizona State (7-11, 4-8) on Tuesday and Thursday, and Arizona (15-8, 9-8) on Saturday morning.
As their basketball season comes down to a long week in Arizona and likely a Pac-12 tournament game or maybe even two in Las Vegas, the Huskies will try to avoid a 20-loss season, something that has happened just four times in program history (5-22 in 1994, 10-20 in both 2000 and 2001, and 9-22 in 2017).
Meantime, the Huskies survived three months without having a player come down with COVID-19 or needing to pull out of game. By playing three in Arizona, they'll get their entire conference schedule in.
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