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UW’s Mike Hopkins on NCAA tourney hopes: ‘Position-wise, I think we’re right there’

The arrivals of Mike Hopkins and Jaylen Nowell have helped turn the Huskies around. (AP)

Mike Hopkins’ Huskies took a bit of slide earlier this month when they dropped consecutive losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Utah. This week, the Huskies have a chance to seek redemption and a 21-win season when they face both Oregon schools at home.

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If Washington loses their final two games, they’ll still finish with 19 wins under first-year head coach Mike Hopkins – a far cry from the nine-win season the team posted just one year ago. However, Hopkins, like any coach, has his sights set on wins.

“The one thing you can do is just focus on what you can control, and that’s go out and win games,” Hopkins told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard and Mike Salk. “I do know that this team has beat three teams at one point during the year that were rated number two in the country, one was rated 10, and two of them have been on the road, which has been great. We’ve played a really tough non-league schedule. We have a chance to have a winning record in the Pac-12 in a week.

“It’s uncharted waters for the team in terms of being in position like we are. It’s exciting,” Hopkins said. “It’s great to be home. We’ve had great crowds (and) the Dawg Pack’s been incredible. (They’re) giving us a huge advantage. We haven’t played our best basketball all the way, but we’ve had a couple good practices and I think the kids are excited and ready to go out there.”

Oregon State (5-27) has not won a game on the road. Oregon (19-10, 6th in the Pac-12) currently holds the tie-breaker to rank over Washington (7th) in the conference. Hopkins, though, isn’t focused on that. He’s encouraging his players to focus on one game at a time — and to do so without over-working their minds and bodies.

Less is More

“I know for myself, if I’m exhausted, it’s like, ‘Geez, how must they feel?’ For the most part, energy-wise, it’s a long season,” Hopkins said. “We don’t have shootarounds. It was something I took away from Syracuse, it was one of, I thought, the geniuses of Jim Boeheim. At the end of the day, coaches who practice for three hours, they’re insecure more than the players. We guage a lot, we talk to the kids a lot … We’ve been doing our best job where we feel like we’re managing that, and doing less. Less is more.”

The Huskies are far from a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament, but they could make a strong case with back-to-back wins over the Oregon schools to finish the season.

“I think we’re learning, we’re moving forward, and we’re excited to win these games. And we’re in good position … position-wise I think we’re right there. In or out, I don’t know. I just know that if we win the next two we’ll be closer and in better position.”

Listen to Mike Hopkins’ entire interview with Brock and Salk here.