FROM PULLMAN — With Pac-12 play beginning this week, we dust off our five-questions-with-a-beat-writer feature to preview the Washington Huskies. Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune was kind enough to stop by this week, and we also answered five questions about WSU on his blog. Read on for Todd's answers.
1. It seems the most publicized portion of UW's season has been its three home losses. Have the Huskies improved since then?
“At the very least, they are healed. Coming into the start of the season, wing Scott Suggs and power forward Shawn Kemp Jr. were likely starters. Kemp hurt his knee and returned a month ago. He's still working his way back in. Suggs has dealt with a concussion, which occurred very early in one of the home losses you reference, against Albany, and had plantar fasciitis. In addition, backup point guard Andrew Andrews missed three games, one of which was the home loss to Nevada by three points, because of an ankle sprain. But, the other home loss, a drubbing by Colorado State, exposed one of Washington's biggest weaknesses: rebounding. Colorado State had more offensive rebounds (24) than Washington had rebounds (21). That bludgeoning had nothing to do with roster health.”
2. Everyone knows C.J. Wilcox as a shooter. Has he added anything to his game now that he's their go-to scoring threat? Does he need to for them to be successful?
“Wilcox is the lead of every opposition's scouting report, which is a change for him. He was 2-for-12 from the field against UConn, missing several good looks. He conceded Thursday he may have to mix up his offensive game a bit. He did this for a short stretch earlier in the season, but has drifted away from going to the rim or at least putting the ball on the floor for a pull-up runner along the baseline, a shot he's comfortable with. A little diversity would help him, yet, if he gets the same looks he had against Connecticut, he'd be happy with that.”
3. What have been the Huskies' biggest defensive shortcomings?
“On-ball and perimeter defense. The Huskies are tied for last in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage against. The only reason they have moved into a tie in that category is because UConn was just 4-for-17 from 3 in the last game. They are also last in field-goal percentage against in the conference. Poor defense is hands down Washington's biggest problem this season. According to Kenpom.com, Washington's steal percentage is a mere 6.5 percent, which is 338th in the country out of 345 teams.”
4. It seems that even Lorenzo Romar's best teams went through stretches of stagnant offensive play. Have those been frequent this season, and do you think the new offense is at all to blame for that?
“There have been stagnant spells, but less so than in the past. This is an odd version of Washington basketball. This group runs much less than prior editions, mostly because of reduced opportunity as a result of poor defense, yet is able to handle offensive sets better. It doesn't get as bogged down in the halfcourt.”
5. Has the high-post offense, in general, been an upgrade or a downgrade at this point?
“I think it suits this team. That said, they are still learning and developing in it. I talked with NC State head coach Mark Gottfried — the Wolfpack is the only other Div. I team to use the high-post offense as its core offense and he coached at UCLA with Lorenzo Romar — and Gottfried said it took his team until February last year, his first at NC State, to get comfortable in the new system. Washington just shot 29.7 percent, by far its worst mark of the season, in a loss to UConn. That dropped the Huskies' shooting percentage to 44.6 percent while learning a new offense. Last year, with two first-round draft picks and the offense everyone was familiar with, Washington shot 44.8 percent. Also keep in mind the Huskies still use elements of their motion offense which was the focal point in the past. Relying on the high-post and blending it with aspects of the motion has offered a steep learning curve, especially with an oft-injured roster.”