It’s a little hard to believe but the Huskies are now more than a quarter of the way through the basketball season so today we’re going to take a quick look at how this team is shaping up. This UW squad is an interesting mix of good and bad. They don’t do anything half-assed. If they’re good at something they’re really good and the same for the bad. Here’s 5 statistics for each and a quick look into why they’ve performed as they have. The numbers come from kenpom.com.
Getting to the Free Throw Line (5th in Free Throw Attempts per Field Goal Attempt- 50.3%)
Mike Hopkins talked in the offseason about the need for the Huskies to shoot more free throws and they’ve taken that message to heart. Last season’s team was 286th in this particular category. That’s a remarkable change considering the only major personnel change was replacing Jaylen Nowell for Markelle Fultz.
The real change however is the role of Noah Dickerson in the offense. After Sunday’s game against Omaha, Dickerson is 3rd in the country in FT Rate and 5th in Fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Now, part of that is undoubtedly because of the level of competition. But Dickerson did shoot 16 free throws in UW’s two premier games against Providence and Virginia Tech so we’ll see how sustainable it is in the future.
Not Getting Shots Blocked (13th in Offensive Block Percentage - 4.9%)
More so than the free throw attempts, I feel this is dictated by the level of competition. The Huskies have yet to go against an elite shot blocker. That’s going to change starting against Kansas and continuing throughout conference play. It’s nice to know we aren’t getting stuffed very often but it’s not a very meaningful stat.
Stealing the Ball (17th in Steal Percentage- 12.3%)
This Husky defense has been quite bad on the aggregate but they’ve been much better at getting the ball back. Last season the Dawgs were 198th in this metric so obviously this is quite a step up. The new defensive scheme is the biggest reason. The Huskies have been able to get into passing lanes and use their length and/or quickness to get steals. They’ve also been effective trapping the corners in the last few games which has led to steals.
Matisse Thybulle is obviously the biggest contributor. He’s 10th nationally in steal percentage at 6.0% and 3rd in steals per game at 3.5. But David Crisp (3.1%) and Jaylen Nowell (2.7%) have also been above average in that category.
Offensive Rebounding (39th in Offensive Rebound Percentage- 35.6%)
Offensive rebounding was viewed as one of the staples of Lorenzo Romar basketball for a long time. The Huskies have finished in the top-50 in this category in 12 of the last 14 seasons (the exceptions being just 2014 and 2015). The team was 28th last year so it’s not a sudden change instituted by Mike Hopkins. But the biggest reason for maintaining that total has been the growth of Sam Timmins in the last few games.
Timmins had an OR% of just 9.7% last year which was barely ahead of 6’3 teammate Carlos Johnson. This season it has skyrocketed up to 16.6% which is good for 22nd in the country. He’ll end up playing more 7-footers and that number will go down but it’s a good sign of his development. Noah Dickerson has been just as dominant on the offensive glass securing 17.1% of available offensive misses which is 15th nationally. Nahziah Carter and Carlos Johnson have also been solid off the wing at 7.9 and 7.8% respectively which are great totals for wings.
Blocking the Ball (45th in Block Percentage- 13.2%)
This may be slightly surprising since the Huskies are seemingly missing a premier rim protector they have had in the past few years such as Marquese Chriss and Malik Dime. But Sam Timmins has been pretty good in this regard recently. He’s almost doubled his block percentage from 4.1% last year to 7.8% this year. That is now good for 89th in the country and more fitting for a 6’11 center.
Meanwhile, Matisse Thybulle has been a monster closing out on shooters and sneaking up behind unsuspecting shooters in the middle of the zone. He’s got a block percentage of 6.8%. Only one other player ahead of him in that statistic if 6’5 or shorter so it’s pretty rare for someone his size to be that disruptive. He only has two blocks in the three toughest games so we’ll see if he can keep this up at all during conference play.
Shooting (244th in 3-Point Percentage- 32.3%)
We knew going into this season that the Huskies might struggle to hit shots from beyond the arc given they weren’t very good at it last year and lost their best shooter in Markelle Fultz. But the Huskies have been particularly brutal to this point. They’ve been completely saved by the fact that freshmen Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright are shooting a combined 11/19 (58%) from deep.
David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle were both good shooters last year but are just 31.2% and 27.3% respectively. Thybulle in particular has gotten a ton of wide open looks and just isn’t knocking them down. I think that will change. Crisp’s is more of a problem of shot selection. As the point guard he’s prone to just jacking up a not open shot early in the shot clock rather than getting it back in a catch and shoot where he’s more effective. Finally, Jaylen Nowell has hit just 3 of his last 16 attempts from deep and is down to 26.1% on the year.
Keeping the Ball out of the Basket... (302nd in Effective Field Goal Percentage- 55.7%)
This is obviously a big one. The truth is that when the Huskies haven’t forced a turnover they might as well not have anyone out there. Opponents are shooting 38.3% (274th) from deep and 54.3% (270th) from inside the arc. Hopkins has stated his goal for the defense is 30% from 3-point range and 40% from inside the arc. They’ve got a ways to go (right now Syracuse is at 34.3% and 40.7%). The overall effective field goal % number was actually better last season which is hard to believe as teams shot better from deep but worse from close than this year.
The hope here is obviously that even though the competition will get better soon, the team will become more comfortable playing in the zone. There are certainly stretches where it looks like everyone is locked in and working together and stretches where there is mass confusion. This defense is being run without the ideal personnel you need to run it. That will change next year but for now this is a major struggle.
Being Old (304th in Experience- 1.27 years)
This is here as a reminder that on top of the fact this is a new scheme, it’s also still a very young team. Dan Kingma is the only senior on the roster and even with the injury to Michael Carter III he’s only going to play in blowouts. The 10-man rotation (including Carter III) is made up of 4 juniors, 2 sophomores, and 4 freshmen. The Huskies have now gone from 347th, to 347th, to 304th. Next year will finally be a senior-laden team. It’s tough to preach patience to a fanbase this long removed from an NCAA tourney appearance but this is why Hopkins keeps asking for it.
Sharing the Ball (312th in Assists per Field Goal Attempt- 44.7%)
This one is also pretty easy to identify in a root cause analysis. The Huskies original recruiting class would’ve brought in Blake Harris and Daejon Davis who are both putting up assist percentages of 29%+ in their freshman years. Instead, the Dawgs ended up with Michael Carter III who was more of a combo guard to begin with and he has promptly broken his hand.
Point guard duties have been shared by David Crisp, Jaylen Nowell, and Matisse Thybulle each of whom has an assist percentage between 16.4% and 17.6%. Carter III in limited duty was at 22.9%. This is just not a team designed to whip the ball around like the Golden State Warriors. Nowell is best as an isolation scorer. Dickerson is best getting the ball in the post and beating his man one-on-one. Neither Dickerson nor Timmins is even an average interior passer. The talent just is not here to expect even a merely below average passing team. Carter III getting healthy will help but not enough to transform the makeup of this particular roster. Too few times has a player made a tough pass like the one below.
Keeping Others from Sharing the Ball (347th in Opponent Assists per Field Goal Attempt- 68.3%)
I’ll keep this brief since it’s intertwined with everything else. But teams just have to make about 5 passes and the zone falls apart. The Huskies are still a team made of athletic players that don’t have strong defensive discipline. They are prone to ball watching and will inch away from their responsibilities which means the ball suddenly reversing causes a chain reaction of panic that usually results in an easy basket. More time in the zone will hopefully help but even with time there’s no evidence that players like David Crisp or Carlos Johnson are truly improving in this regard.
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