TOP OF THE TOWN – I don’t think it’s no longer a secret why the Washington men’s basketball team is doing so poorly (a six-game losing streak and a loser of 10 of its last 12). The Huskies (12-12, 2-9 in Pac-12) are not as talented as we were led to believe, playing a zone that coach Mike Hopkins was practically born with is the wrong defense for this particular group and opponents have figured out how to decapitate their offense. So let’s look at these premises. I would say that their talent is good but it doesn’t mix well. And it’s awful young.  I’m shocked, too, that pro scouts apparently still have 6-9 Jaden McDaniels rated as a high first-round draft pick even though we all can see that he is immature and prone to making stupid mistakes. He doesn’t seem to get it that basketball is a team sport. Nahziah Carter, a 6-6 junior, shows as much athletic talent as anybody on the roster. He is inconsistent, however, and like McDaniels is prone to making mistakes (like barreling into tall trees and getting stripped of the ball or being whistled for a charge).  Carter scored all 18 of his team-high points last night (Feb. 9) in a 79-67 loss to arch-rival Washington State in the second half. Isaiah Stewart, the 6-9 post player is what is wrong with the Huskies right now. No, it’s not Stewart’s fault, but he is the focal point of what has gone wrong, at least in the main. Pac-12 opponents figured out fairly quick that you stop or hinder Stewart, and that is no mean feat, you stop the Huskies’ offense. Teams routinely double team Stewart and sometimes he is tripled teamed. There is also a good percentage of the time the Huskies can’t even get the ball into him or have passes picked off. In the last three games, Stewart, who averages a team-leading 17.4 points a game) has scored 34 points (nine against Arizona, 14 against Arizona State and 11 in the loss to Washington State). And he has had to work extra hard to get that many. When your offense starts and ends with a guy like Stewart and opponents shut it off, you are lost. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something has to change. I would run a double-low post game or a high-low game with Stewart and maybe 6-10 Nate Roberts or even McDaniels, even though he is more a perimeter guy. But you got to try something to relieve the defensive pressure on Stewart, and so far I haven’t seen even an attempt to do that. That brings everything back to coach Hop, who in his first two year as Husky coach he was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. So what is going on this year? Maybe he won with the former coach’s players – Lorenzo Romar (now at Pepperdine)? Maybe Hop needs to change his primary defense to man? He has the players for that. They are quick. Sometimes they are too quick. But at this point maybe a change would be good. I know I get sick of opponents feasting on the zone, especially last night when 6-6 sophomore CJ Elleby, the Cougars’ leading scorer, gunned in a career-high 34 even though the Washington game plan according to Hopkins was to concentrate on stopping him. Elleby is a great player, but if your game-plan is heavily concentrated on him don’t you think there would be some success? But Elleby was getting good looks against the Husky zone and wasn’t missing many of them. Maybe it would have been a good idea to man-up?  There doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of his tunnel.  The Huskies play at USC and UCLA this week (Thursday and Saturday). The USC game should be interesting. Because the first meeting between them was one of the best games the Huskies played all year, blowing out the Trojans 72-40 in Seattle. USC is now 17-7 and 6-5 in conference and you can bet they will be ready. Then it’s three home games with Stanford, California and the Cougars again, and the regular season ends March 7 in Tucson against Arizona. If the Huskies finish last n the conference, and they are two games behind Oregon State for 11th place, they would square off with the No. 5 team in the first round of the conference tournament on March 11.  UCLA and USC are tied for the fifth spot right now. Could the Huskies suddenly find their mo-jo and stun the basketball world by winning the conference and advancing to March Madness? Yeah, sure, and there really is a man in the moon and the cow did jump over it. That’s enough for today.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.