OK, first things first: this is an incredibly small sample size. A full season consists of 31-plus games. A full conference season consists of 18 games. The Huskies have played four games. Keep this in mind.
Regardless, the 3-point percentage achieved by UW’s first four Pac-12 opponents has been absurdly low. The Huskies held Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Colorado to a remarkable 6-for-50 clip from beyond the 3-point arc. That’s 12 percent. And, as has been pointed out elsewhere, those six 3-pointers are fewer than the seven made by C.J. Wilcox in Sunday’s victory over Colorado.
For kicks, here’s a breakdown of each player who has attempted a 3-pointer against the Huskies this season. The number in parentheses is each player’s 3-point shooting percentage this season.
ARIZONA STATE (2-for-14)
Jonathan Gilling, 0-for-3 (.421)
Shaquielle McKissic, 1-for-5 (.278)
Jermaine Marshall, 0-for-3 (.460)
Calaen Robinson, 1-for-1 (.333)
Egor Koulechov, 0-for-1 (.276)
Sai Tummala, 0-for-1 (.316)
Aaron Gordon, 0-for-1 (.333)
T.J. McConnell, 0-for-1 (.351)
Nick Johnson, 1-for-5 (.377)
Gabe York, 1-for-2 (.419)
Jordan Loveridge, 0-for-2 (.311)
Brandon Taylor, 0-for-5 (.363)
Dakarai Tucker, 0-for-1 (.343)
Delon Wright, 1-for-4 (.269)
Parker Van Dyke, 0-for-1 (.360)
Kenneth Ogbe, 0-for-2 (.412)
Xavier Johnson, 1-for-2 (.314)
Askia Booker, 0-for-2 (.284)
Spencer Dinwiddie, 0-for-1 (.413)
Xavier Talton, 0-for-2 (.269)
Eli Stalzer, 0-for-1 (.000)
Tre’Shaun Fletcher, 0-for-2 (.200)
Jaron Hopkins, 0-for-2 (.364)
That’s a fairly eclectic group of misses — some by guys who shoot it pretty well (Gilling, Marshall, Nick Johnson), and some by guys who don’t shoot a great percentage to begin with. Also notable is that no player has made more than one 3-pointer against the Huskies in Pac-12 play.
(In case you’re wondering, the respective Pac-12 3-point shooting rankings of UW’s first four conference opponents are, in order: 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th. So, not exactly the cream of the crop, for what that’s worth.)
So is this a product of UW’s revamped defense? If so, that has to be considered at least a little bit of a pleasant surprise, since Lorenzo Romar has said repeatedly that the impetus for the Huskies’ more packed-in defense was the amount of layups they were allowing. The new scheme is designed to prevent dribble penetration. The fact that opponents are also struggling mightily from 3-point range could be a positive byproduct. I asked Romar about that last week.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that teams are shooting like 13 percent from the 3 in conference games against us. Time will tell if that has anything to do with what we’re doing defensively,” Romar said. “We haven’t been in as many rotation situations with this type of defense as we have been in the past. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not.”
Because the Huskies use a four-guard starting lineup, they can switch on ball-screens more effectively. If someone sets a pick on, say, C.J. Wilcox, then Mike Anderson or Nigel Williams-Goss or Andrew Andrews — all similar in size — can easily pick up the same guy without creating a mismatch.
That helps limit open 3-point opportunities, not only because there’s another defender waiting on the other side of every ball screen, but because less dribble penetration is occurring. Because of that, there are fewer instances in which UW defenders are scrambling into the paint to help out a teammate who got beat off the dribble, and therefore fewer chances for opponents to kick out to the perimeter for open 3-pointers.
Having that much quickness on the floor also helps in transition, which is an area the Huskies struggled to defend the perimeter during nonconference play. Opponents shot 39.3 percent from 3-point play in UW’s 13 non-league games.
“When you’re not getting beat off the dribble as much, you don’t have to rotate as much, which cuts down the number of time you’re closing out in games,” Romar said. “Another issue we had in transition is we weren’t organized. We were getting back in transition, but we weren’t organized. We were there but we didn’t know where people were, and teams were getting transition 3s against us. Our guys have done a good job of not giving those up as much anymore, as well. So it’s a combination of things that have helped us.”
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple