Defensively, teams have very little impact on how accurate an opponent will be from beyond the arc. Ken Pomeroy has gone over this quite a few times. I mention it frequently in recaps.
When conference play started, Kevin Pelton wrote about Washington's defensive turnaround, and how it was fueled significantly by luck, particularly of the three-point variety. It was nice to see the Huskies turning things around defensively, even if luck was a large part of it. Through the first four games of the conference season, Washington opponents had made 6-of-50 three-point attempts. That is 12 percent. It was very much best in the conference through four games.
That contributed to Washington's 3-1 start, that many viewed just as highly as a 4-0 start when the close road loss to Arizona was factored in. Losing to the best team in the country, on the road, with the game being competitive throughout is a feat to be proud of. The Wildcats shot 2-9 from behind the arc. Should it have been an 'average' night, the Wildcats could have been expected to make one more three, maybe two.
Now that sample size has doubled, Washington is 5-3 in conference play, and yet still is best in the conference at "forcing" opponents misses from downtown. In conference play, UW is seventh-best in the country in opponents' three-point field goal percentage at 25.3 percent. There has been some regression to the mean.
Both Stanford and Cal (losses) shot above 40 percent from deep. Cal hit over half of its three-point attempts. Over the four games, UW's opponents have shot 19-49 when trying for the extra point, which comes out to 38.8 percent. That comes remarkably close to how those teams have shot as a whole on the conference season, at 38.4 percent. Granted, that is a large part of the sample size, but already hairs are being split at this point.
I do want to point out that UW is second in the conference in not allowing shots from beyond the arc, forcing opponents to attempt to get their shots inside. Personally, I don't like this strategy without any rim protectors on the team, but it could have a lot to do with how Washington switches each and every screen.
So, what does this all mean int the bigger picture? How is the UW defense performing as a whole now that the three-point percentage is regressing towards the mean? The answer is not very good.
During the first four games, UW was second in the conference in points per possession allowed to Arizona. Since then, the Wildcats have maintained their top spot (.87 PPP allowed is absolutely astounding, though UA has had some luck with 3P%) while Washington has fallen pretty far. While UW ranked second before, it now is seventh.
The opponents haven't been hitting an absurd amount of threes, so the obvious answer is that teams are able to score inside. That is very true. Metrics don't like Washington's defense. Metrics don't like Washington's offense all that much either, but defense is the biggest problem for the Huskies right now. Romar needs to figure out how to stop teams from driving inside at will.
Some teams feel that giving up a little bit inside is worth locking down the perimeter. Romar must be believing that right now, because the Huskies are soft inside without a long and athletic big man to alter shots. Robert Upshaw is going to fit nicely next season in the middle for the Huskies.
Once teams started to hit threes, it became apparent that the Huskies strong defense to start conference play was only a facade. There is potential defensively with C.J. Wilcox and other perimeter players, but lacking a rim protector, UW's defense is going to struggle to stop opposing teams from forcing their way inside.