The Washington Huskies took advantage of the NCAA’s rules regarding foreign tours (programs can take a trip once every four years) by traveling to Australia for a set of five games. Lorenzo Romar’s team finished 3-2 on the tour, while building team chemistry, figuring out their role allocation and developing it’s young players with real live in-game situations.
I know I’ve already raved about Markelle Fultz, but after watching a couple of the Huskies foreign tour games live online, I was able to draw a few more observations regarding Fultz and the rest of their squad.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts:
- Fultz isn’t just good, he’s great, and he’s so much fun to watch. Not only does he glide with the basketball in his hands, but he never seems to force anything, is always on the attack, and is able to get to the basket at will because of his athleticism and his understanding of the game. His creativity on offense is second to none, giving him the ability to score on all three levels (inside, mid-range and beyond the arc).
- The freshman, Fultz, is known for his scoring, however, he’s also a really really solid defender. He digs in on that end of the floor, has quick hands to force turnovers and can even blocks shots around the rim. A guy who can play that well on both ends of the court will certainly be able to uplift a squad in the Pac-12 and go on to be a lottery selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.
- Fultz and David Crisp are interchangeable at the lead guard position. Both players can handle the basketball, so it really doesn’t matter who plays on or off the ball. Fultz loves to have the ball in his hands and will almost always have that responsibility at the end of the shot clock or late in games. However, Crisp is a talented rising sophomore and cannot be overlooked. He changes direction successfully, is very quick, is a capable outside shooter and a good passer.
- Matisse Thybulle is known for his defense. He was third on the team in steals (1.1 per game) and third on the team in blocks (0.9 per game) during his freshman season. He also has the size and length to be a lockdown defender. While those are great numbers and the physical tools are there, sometimes the stats and tools don’t tell the entire story. Thybulle can take the next step as a defensive stopper if he develops better focus and does not commit fouls. The Washington native showed some lack of discipline (fell asleep at times) on that end of the floor during the foreign tour. It’s a small sample size though, so there is no doubt Thybulle is still a breakout player to watch for the Huskies.
- Washington may struggle to shoot the three this season. They shot 33 percent from long range last year, but lose Andrew Andrews and Marquese Chriss. Although Fultz is a great three point shooter, he would prefer to attack the lane. Crisp is capable, however, he can struggle with inconsistency at times. Thybulle shot 37 percent from long range last year, so he could be the answer, but other than him and Fultz, where does the consistency come from?
- Noah Dickerson (scorer) and Malik Dime (shot blocker) are the “vets” of the front court, but Matthew Atewe and Sam Timmins will get their fair share of minutes. Atewe looks very raw and doesn’t have great hand-eye coordination. He is a shot blocker and rebounder though. Timmins is 6’10”, 250, so his size certainly won’t hurt.
- Dominic Green is a nice role player because of his size, length and versatility (he handled the ball some on the foreign tour). Where he needs to improve: His shot selection. Green forces too many three pointers and he just doesn’t look comfortable beyond the arc. He’s just not a good enough shooter to be forcing those types of jumpers.
Overall, Romar has a nice roster of young talented players. Fultz is going to be the lead of the pack, but someone else will need to breakout. Will it be Thybulle or Crisp? Will Dickerson take the next step offensively? How about Dime? Does he add some offense?
We’ll find out soon enough.
For now, the Huskies are in good shape and could potentially make the Big Dance if things break the right way.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
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