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Pac-12 men’s basketball has been awful, but Mike Hopkins remains optimistic

The Pac-12 is 91-58 (.611) in nonconference games, which is the lowest winning percentage among the Power 6 conference basketball teams.

Mike Hopkins isn’t your run-of-the-mill optimist.

The glass-half-full analogy doesn’t apply to the Washington men’s basketball coach. He’s more of a glass-is-overflowing type of guy.

But even Hopkins can’t spew enough platitudes to douse the dumpster fire that has been the Pac-12 men’s basketball.

“I’m such a pro-Pac-12 guy and I love to see the success of the programs (in the conference),” he said. “Sometimes the narrative becomes really negative and people like to thrive on that.

“And that becomes all anyone wants to talk about.”

It’s been difficult – even for Hopkins – to find very many positive attributes on what has been a disastrous nonconference performance by the league that bills itself as the Conference of Champions.

Here’s a brief rundown:

— Following a blowout loss at home to Liberty, UCLA fired coach Steve Alford on Monday after a 7-6 start that includes a four-game losing streak.

— This week’s Associated Press top 25 poll didn’t have a Pac-12 team for the first time in seven years.

— According to ESPN, the Pac-12 closed the books on the worst December by a major conference in the past 20 years when it went 39-36 (.514).

— The Pac-12 is 91-58 (.611) in nonconference games, which is the lowest winning percentage among the Power 6 conference basketball teams. The league even has a lower winning percentage than the AAC (.718), West Coast (.634) and Mid-American (.632).

— ESPN’s bracket guru Joe Lunardi predicts the Pac-12 will receive just two spots in the 68-team NCAA tournament, which would be a the fewest since 2012.

“We haven’t played as well as wanted to as a league,” Hopkins admits. “But to say our league is this or that and just being negative, those are fighting words.”

Just one nonconference matchup remains for the Pac-12 when Washington (8-4) host Cal State Fullerton (4-9) 7 p.m. Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena.

For the Huskies, it’s one last chance to jumpstart an offense that’s been mostly idle.

In their last outing, Washington connected on just 3 of 19 three-pointers during a 57-41 win over Sacramento State in a game that was symbolic of its season.

The Huskies rank last in the Pac-12 in scoring (70.1 points per game), three-pointers made (78) and three-point percentage (30.7). And they’re next to last in assists per game (11.3) and field goal percentage (44.2).

But then, Washington has had several superlative defensive performances.

UW ranks second in the Pac-12 in opponents’ field goal percentage (39.0) and turnovers (14.4) and fourth in points allowed (65.7).

Furthermore, the Huskies are 8-1 when holding teams to fewer than 70 points.

Up next is a Cal State Fullerton team that pushed Arizona State to the limit in its season opener before falling 102-94 in double overtime.

“I would just like to play a good, solid 40 minutes,” Hopkins said. “Like a good quality game through and through. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just stay consistent.

“We can miss shots or make shots. We’ve played unbelievable in spurts, but I think it would be great to just have a really good solid consistent game for 40 minutes.”

Following Tuesday’s tuneup, the Pac-12 begins conference play on Thursday. Washington hosts Washington State on Saturday in its conference opener.

“Have we had success? No. Is it one of worst December ever? Yes.” Hopkins said. “Those are the facts of the case, but it seems like we’ve gotten picked on (by the media) that last couple of years. To change that, we have to change the narrative and win.

“But it’s not doom and gloom for me.”

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