SEATTLE — Sometime before Washington’s game against UCLA, senior point guard David Crisp looked at a picture from his freshman season.
The Dawg Pack, UW’s student section inside Alaska Airlines Arena, was mostly empty in the photo. There were maybe 30 people in the stands. When he stepped on the court on Saturday, Crisp took a moment to really appreciate the difference.
“To see how it is now? You can’t describe it,” he said. “That’s what you dream about when you come to play college basketball.”
In Saturday’s 69-55 victory over the Bruins, UW played in front of its first sellout crowd of the season. The 18-4 Huskies are on an 11-game winning streak, the third longest in Division I behind Tennessee (16) and Gonzaga (12).
But there’s a phrase that Crisp and his teammates have repeated throughout the season: Never get too high, never get too low. It’s what the coaches preach to the players on a daily basis, and they seem to be taking it to heart.
Still, Crisp and UW’s three other seniors remember what he called “the lowest of lows.” Like the 2016-17 season, for example, when the Huskies finished 9-22 overall and 2-16 in the Pac-12. They’ve come a long way in two years, but they aren’t satisfied just yet.
“Our success has been level-headed,” Crisp said. “Keep your head down, keep working, getting better every day. Like I say every time … every practice, every game, every moment is all big.
“We make sure because we know one little possession could cost you. We’ve had that in the past here, in our careers here. We’ve just been working trying to get better every day. If we keep that mentality, we’ll be fine.”
Midway through the Pac-12 season, the Huskies are undefeated at 9-0. They’re just the ninth team to reach that mark in the conference since 1978-79, and all eight of the previous teams won at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title. Every other team in the Pac-12 has at least three losses.
So, what does all that mean to UW?
“Nothing,” said head coach Mike Hopkins. “We’ve proven that there’s nine games left. It’s like at halftime, you’re up nine. The score is 0-0. I had a good friend, a coach, text me the other day. He said, ‘You’re not coaching a record. You’re coaching the next play.’ That’s what great programs, great teams do.”
The Huskies are in every NCAA Tournament mock bracket, falling somewhere between the No. 7 and No. 9 seed lines. Their NET ranking keeps rising, too. As of Feb. 3, they were ranked 28th.
The Associated Press Top 25 could be next. UW was ranked No. 25 in the preseason poll, but fell out by Week 2. Last week, it was the top team outside the Top 25, receiving 135 votes, seven behind No. 25 Cincinnati.
You get the feeling, though, that being snubbed by the AP poll again won’t affect UW’s mindset.
Following the Huskies’ win over Oregon State, Hopkins said getting caught up in the outside noise was an issue for the team last season. They’re trying not to let that happen again.
“It’s what we’re preaching to them,” Hopkins said after the victory over UCLA. “I’ve got a great coaching staff around these guys day-to-day saying the right things. We learned how to win. Now we need to learn how to be champions. That’s on and off the court.
“When you’re trying to change the culture, you’re fighting for that thing every day. You just raise the bar, raise the bar. The kids have done a great job so far.”