If it seems things are moving at a slower pace for the Huskies this year, that’s because they are.
An increased efficiency in the halfcourt was part of the new plan for this season. The high-post offense has produced that often, especially when the team runs it to its fullest value. That hasn’t happened much lately and Washington has paid for it.
But the drastic decrease of transition play? That wasn’t what Lorenzo Romar wanted or expected.
The slowdown is enormous and has two keys: One is personnel. The second, which also stems from personnel, is Washington’s inability to create turnovers. The Huskies have 94 steals in 20 games, or 4.7 per game. Last year, Washington had 233 steals in 35 games, or 6.7 per.
Much of the difference can be attributed to Tony Wroten’s departure. He averaged almost two steals per game. Certain Pac-12 coaches felt Wroten’s defensive approach — athleticism first, position and thoughtfullness second — gave them two backdoor scores per game and other easy baskets when he was beaten off the dribble. If that’s the case, his gambling, unsound style was a wash and likely a detriment since someone had to cover up for him when he was beat, at times leading to fouls (see N’Diaye, Aziz). But, it also produced more fastbreak points. Wroten’s aggressiveness and Terrence Ross’ rocket-fueled legs helped, too.
This year’s group doesn’t pressure as much knowing it has a hard time keeping the ball in front of it. Washington is long, but lumbering. It has backed off the previous manic style of defense — the Oregon game, when the Ducks committed 23 turnovers, not withstanding.
It also doesn’t have the guard depth of past Washington team. Andrew Andrews is the only guard coming off the bench.
As of Wednesday night, according to Kenpom.com, Washington was 201st in the country in adjusted tempo. Last year it was 30th. Three years ago it was 10th. Since 2003, the lowest Washington had been in tempo is 57th.
It has been as high as third and 10th or better three times since ’03, as far back as the stats go. So, if you see anyone touting how few points per game Washington allows this year, give them a tempo-free bonk on the skull. Using that number as an assessment of Washington’s defense (or most defenses) couldn’t be more misleading. Not to mention, Washington has played few teams — Oregon again comes to mind — which would prefer to push the ball themselves. This tracks back tempo and points, as well.
What’s also interesting is, despite the lack of transition baskets, Washington’s offense is slightly more efficient than a year ago when it’s ranked countrywide. KenPom has the Huskies 53rd in adjusted offense this after being 60th last season. Though, the Huskies’ total of 107.8 is a touch less than last season’s 108.4. That latter number was achieved with much easier baskets. Which makes a claim that this year’s offense is more efficient, though two first-round picks left early, a valid one.
Don’t mistake any of this as a lack of desire on Romar’s part to push the ball. He would prefer it and reiterated Tuesday that point guards Abdul Gaddy and Andrews need to do so more often.
It just hasn’t happened, and, if it did, would cause a dramatic positive shift for Washington’s offense since it has flipped the script and become capable in the halfcourt, but no longer runs.