As Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle began discussing the Washington Huskies in the press conference following the Buffaloes’ win Thursday night against Washington State, he expressed a small measure of empathy for a personnel matter being endured by his counterpart on Saturday night, Washington Huskies coach Mike Hopkins.
Following UW’s 72-40 thrashing of USC on Jan. 5, a drubbing that gave the Huskies a split in their opening Pac-12 Conference series, UW learned it was losing guard Quade Green to academic ineligibility. Boyle remarked on Thursday that it was a similar situation as what the Buffs endured last year when they lost junior guard Deleon Brown.
Yes, it was similar in that both were academic suspensions. But Green was a far more integral player to the Huskies than Brown was for the Buffs, and in his absence the Huskies have lost four of five games going into Saturday night’s battle at the CU Events Center (7 p.m., FS1).
In that USC game, Green scored 14 points for his eighth consecutive double-digit scoring performance. Brown, in comparison, recorded six double-digit point totals in his 63 games at CU.
The loss of Green, a transfer from Kentucky, has left the Huskies without a true point guard. In response, Hopkins recently opted to remove the redshirt that had been fitted for freshman guard Marcus Tsohonis, who has played at least 23 minutes in each of the past three games and has gone 6-for-12 on 3-pointers over the past four games.
“I’ve seen he’s very capable,” Boyle said of Tsohonis. “He’s shooting over 50 percent from three. He’s got a great mid-range game, good floaters. He handles the ball. Now, he is a freshman, and they were planning on redshirting him and they took it off after what happened obviously with Green. A very capable player.”
“They started (Jamal) Bey there (at Utah). He’s 6-6. That’s not his natural position. Washington, for as many long and athletic guys as they have, they don’t have a true point guard. (Tsohonis) is probably as close as they’ve got. And he’s a good player. A talented kid. But doesn’t have a lot of experience, so he’s kind of getting thrown in the fire a little bit.”
The situation at the point for UW made it easy to wonder if Boyle might make a similar move with true freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy in the event of an injury situation with junior point guard McKinley Wright IV. On Friday, Boyle said chances are slim he would remove the redshirt from Barthelemy, even in an emergency, and those odds will only grown slimmer with each passing week.
“Only in the most drastic of situations, but it would be really, really hard for me to do that and look him in the eye and feel good about it. Very unlikely,” Boyle said. “If we were going to do that, I would’ve made that decision in early December. I still think it’s the best thing for him in the long run, without a doubt.”
Bey vs. Bey
After meeting three times last season, Saturday’s matchup will the only one this season between Tyler Bey and his cousin, Huskies sophomore Jamal Bey, barring a pairing in the Pac-12 tournament in March.
In Green’s absence, Jamal Bey also has taken turns at the point for the Huskies, though it is not his natural position. Jamal Bey has played in all 20 games with six starts, including in each of the past four games.
“I haven’t really been talking to him much this season. I’m letting him do his own thing,” Tyler Bey said. “He had a bad game and he called me and stuff, but other than that I’m just letting him do his thing at Washington. I haven’t watched their games in a while, actually. I’m sure it’s a tough role. He’s not used to it. I’ve never seen him play point guard in my life. He’s just got to step up for the team.”
Through the 12th game of the season against Dayton in Chicago, Wright’s assist-to-turnover rate stood at 1.25 (45 assists, 36 turnovers), which was appreciably lower than his rate in either of his first two seasons at CU.
However, the junior point guard has quickly turned those numbers around. In the past seven games Wright has compiled 55 assists, with three 10-assist games, against only 19 turnovers for an assist-to-turnover rate of 2.89. That run has improved his season assist-to-turnover rate to 1.82 going into the game against Washington.
Wright compiled a 1.86 assist-to-turnover rate as a freshman and posted a 1.55 mark last year.
The No. 23 Buffs go into the UW matchup ranked 20th in the NET rankings No. 23 at KenPom.com through Friday’s games…CU is shooting .365 from 3-point range. Improving from the arc was an offseason focus after posting a .323 mark last year, the second-lowest of Boyle’s nine full seasons at CU. Though plenty of games remain, the .365 mark would rank sixth all-time at CU.