The Washington men’s basketball team faces a stiff test Sunday when it play an exhibition at Nevada, which is expected to be a top-10 ranked team.
Many are bullish on the Washington men’s basketball team, but Mike Hopkins will have a better gauge of his team after Sunday’s exhibition at Nevada.
“Let’s go see it,” the UW coach said. “You’re playing in a tough environment, in front of 11,000 fans against a pre-season – I think they might even be top-5 team. Great coach. Great program.
“Let’s see where we stand. There’s nothing like having a game like that where you can go back, where it doesn’t count in the win or loss column and you can go back and watch film. You either get humbled or you’ve got to bring them down.”
Sunday’s 3 p.m. game, which will not be televised and is expected to attract a sold-out crowd at the Lawlor Events Center, will benefit Northern California wildfire victims, specifically those impacted this summer by the Carr Fire.
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While prospects are high at Washington, which was ranked third in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, Nevada is expected to win its second straight Mountain West regular-season championship and is considered a national title contender.
Led by preseason All-American Caleb Martin and his twin Cody, the Wolf Pack have nine players with three years of experience returning to a team that was 29-8 last season. Nevada coach Eric Musselman also landed his first five-star recruit in Jordan Brown, a 6-foot-11 McDonald’s All-American.
Washington also has a veteran team that returns eight of its top nine scorers, including five starters from a team that was 21-13 last season.
“You’ve got to know now, because our schedule there’s no hiding,” Hopkins said referring to UW’s non-conference schedule that includes road games Gonzaga and Auburn, which are expected to be top-15 ranked teams. “That’s what we want to do with our program. We want to play the best and we’re going to have to be really fine-tuned earlier than we were last year, and as expected.”
In most years, the Hopkins would go on the road for a closed-door scrimmage that would allow them to take a look at different lineups and pairings in privacy.
Hopkins still plans to experiment with lineups with the intent of collecting a victory.
“I’m a gut guy, so we’re going in there to win the game,” he said. “But it’s a great opportunity to try…that’s when we try some things. We’ll try different lineups to see how they are. You play against each other all day, so it’s going to be good to be playing against somebody else. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves. We’re going to win, that’s the bottom line. I’m not going there to try things to lose. We don’t do that here. That’s not who we are. We’ll learn a lot.”
Hopkins said the Huskies benefited after being outplayed at Boise State during a scrimmage last year.
“I talked to Leon at Boise because we were going to play them again,” Hopkins said. “We thought with the team we had coming back and the schedule we were playing, Boise State would have been a great game for us. But this one (Nevada) was going to be with fans.
“When you can go play in front of 11,000 great fans on the roads at a top-10, top-5 program, I just felt like having a veteran team with the schedule that we had we have to find out where we’re at. You can only see so much in practice. You’ve got to be able to go out there and play that game. It was something that we were targeting. We looked at other teams too, but it ended up being west coast, fly out there, get back the next day and really challenge ourselves.”
Hopkins is open to hosting an exhibition next year that benefits a local charity.
“I’d love it,” he said. “Have it here, sell-out, bring a team here, raise awareness for homelessness or a great cause, connect with the city and do something.
“We talk about having awareness of all – awareness of our city. How can we help build? How can we help? How can we use the program to help? That’s what’s we try to promote here at University of Washington basketball.”