It was a disappointing season for both the men’s and women’s UW basketball teams in 2021. Where do they go from here to turn the tides for next season?

It was a disappointing 2020-21 season for UW men’s and women’s basketball teams as both failed to make the NCAA tournament once again. What makes the situation even more worrisome is that both teams were as far from it as any team could be. It is obvious there will be changes made to both programs, but what exactly can be done to make these teams competitive again?

Men’s Basketball

After winning the Pac-12 regular season title and making a run to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2019, the Huskies have failed to make the tournament since with a losing record two seasons in a row. However, this past season was a new low point for this program that was on the rise only a couple of years prior. Now, head coach Mike Hopkins has work to do, or else he may be looking for a new job following the conclusion of next season.

The season was one of the worst in the history of Husky basketball. The team finished with an overall record of 5-21 and a conference record of 4-16, good enough for an 11th place finish in the Pac-12, only ahead of the University of California.

However, after the horrendous 1-11 start to the season, the Huskies began to play a lot better in the second half of the season, which started with two wins over Colorado and Utah who both would finish the season with winning records. Although they would only manage two more wins, they were much more competitive than they were at the start of the year, giving glimpses of hope for improvement next season. 

A big part of the Huskies’ turnaround was sophomore guard Marcus Tsohonis, who finished the season with an average of 10.4 points per game. Tsohonis also hit the game winning shot with four seconds left in their Feb. 15 win over rival Washington State. The shot capped off a career-high 29 point performance. 

Tsohonis, along with fellow Junior guard Erik Stevenson, were two players that Husky fans thought they could count on being back for next season to help lead the resurgence of the program with new faces brought in around them. But that quickly changed following the conclusion of the season.

On March 23, Stevenson announced that he would be entering the transfer portal and leave Washington. He was the first of what would end up being a total of five Huskies entering the portal, including Tsohonis. 

These five, along with the expected departures of seniors Quade Green and Hamier Wright, make for a grand total of seven Huskies leaving the program. As scary as it is to see this many players leave the program at once, it may end up working out for UW considering Hopkins now has a completely fresh slate to rebuild the program and bring in new players who fit his coaching philosophy better. 

Already, he has made the addition of Arizona grad transfer Terrell Brown Jr, who is projected to be the new starting point guard, and small forward out of the NBA Africa Academy Samual Ariyibi. These two will join the lone class of 2021 high school commits and Mcdonald’s All-American forward Jackson Grant, but expect more additions to come in the following months.

The two players I hope to see stay out of the transfer portal are guard Jamal Bey and center Nate Roberts. Bey showed flashes of potential coming out of high school and finished the season averaging 10.3 points per game. Roberts may never be the star center but can be a solid rotational piece in the frontcourt next season.

The bottom line is that this team was 5-21 this past season. Even if he retained all five players who decided to move on, the possibility of a total 180-degree turnaround is unlikely. Hopkins’ best bet to improve comes down to adding new players from the transfer portal and completely rebuilding the team. I am intrigued to see what players he is able to add and what this team will look like as we get closer to the upcoming season. 

Women’s Basketball

Finishing with an overall record of 7-14 and a conference record of 3-13, the Husky women’s basketball team had a similarly disappointing season as the men did. They would miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season under head coach Jody Wynn. 

The result of the season would mark the end of Wynn’s tenure at Washington after she was fired following the final game. She would finish with a career record of 38-75 overall and 11-58 in Pac-12 play in four years at the helm.

Coming to UW, Wynn had the tough task of replacing current WNBA star Kelsey Plum who led the Huskies to a final four appearance in 2016 and a sweet 16 appearance in 2017. Wynn was steadily improving her record in her first three seasons but the record did not continue improving in 2021, leading to her termination. 

Whoever the new coach ends up being will have the tough task of keeping a very strong recruiting class together, which ranks among the top nationally and includes four ESPN top 100 recruits. It is always a risk to fire a coach with a strong recruiting class like Wynn and is almost a guarantee that most will look elsewhere for an opportunity to play under a coach they can choose. 

However, it was clear that Wynn was keeping the team at a mediocre level, and a change was bound to be made sooner rather than later. 

The new coach will have the opportunity to work with a solid group of returning players including the trio of Junior Haley Van Dyke, Sophomore Quay Miller and Freshman Tameiya Sadler. Van Dyke is who I am most excited to see play under a new coach. She has the skill set to be a strong senior leader and should once again be the team’s top scoring threat after averaging 12 points per game this past season. Along with the expected development of Miller and Sadler, if the new head coach is the right fit, there is a lot to be excited about for the Husky women’s basketball program. 

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