Instead of reliving two ugly losses to Utah and Colorado, or looking ahead to home games against Arizona or Arizona State, I want to take a closer look at why the Huskies are in the pit they’re in at the moment.
Teams with multiple top-10 recruits are typically contenders on a national level, yet the Huskies, with Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, aren’t even among the contenders in their own conference. What gives? The short answer is that even if the Dawgs have two top-10 recruits on paper, they don’t have two guys playing at that level. In fact, since conference play started, McDaniels has been such a liability at the offensive end that it’s questionable whether he should remain on the floor at all.
While McDaniels has the physical ability to do amazing things on both ends, he often makes things harder than they have to be offensively. In conference play, he’s shooting 35.9% on twos and 25.9% on threes, which adds up to a 37.1% effective FG percentage. The national average is 49.4% and UW ranks 7th nationally by holding opponents to a 43.0% eFG, which means that McDaniels’s shooting has been significantly worse than an average player playing against one of the best defenses in the country. He compounds the issue with very high volume. He’s 13th in the entire conference in the percentage of the team’s shots he takes when he’s on the court. McDaniels hasn’t been any more efficient when he’s not shooting. He’s averaging 4.1 turnovers against 1.6 assists per game. He also leads the conference in personal fouls with 65 and technicals with 4. Add it all up and the Huskies score 79.4 points per 100 possessions with McDaniels on the floor- the national average is over 102.
Anyone who has watched the Huskies play lately has seen the type of play that has led to this abysmal stats. McDaniels gets the ball on the wing and dribbles the ball up to his ribs into traffic and either charges into a defender or has the ball slapped away. McDaniels gets the ball coming off a screen, pump fakes, stutter-steps, and shoots a long two without his feet set. He has the body and athletic ability to make these plays work from time to time, but they’re incredibly difficult plays and he would be much more efficient if he focused on doing the easy thing instead of the impressive thing. Since Quade Green became ineligible, the team has needed more offensive creation. At his best, McDaniels can provide that. The Huskies need him to be closer to that level to have any significant level of success the rest of the year. He just hasn’t done it so far.
The surprise of the weekend came when Arizona State knocked off rival Arizona in Tempe. In a storyline that will sound familiar to Husky fans, the Wildcats jumped out to a big early lead (37-15 at one point) and fell into a horrible offensive funk. The Cats sat on exactly 43 points for over six minutes of game time straddling the half, which allowed the Sun Devils to cut a 17 point lead to three. Arizona still had a great chance to win. Alonzo Verge Jr. drove to the basket and made a tough layup in traffic with nine seconds left to go ahead by one. Arizona had a chance at the buzzer, but couldn’t get a clean look and Bobby Hurley’s squad pulled the upset.
The Cats now drop to 3-3, which is still within shouting distance of first place given Oregon’s recent swoon. Colorado, USC, and Stanford are all even with the Ducks with two losses. UW and Oregon State are surprisingly pulling up the rear at 2-6.
Oregon travels to northern California this weekend. Stanford certainly looks like the more dangerous matchup even though Cal upset their rivals last weekend. Meanwhile, surging Colorado will play USC on Saturday night in LA. Both teams have rebounded from some questionable early losses to get within a half game of Oregon at the top of the conference standings. If either one pulls off a sweep this weekend, they’ll be in great shape to push for the regular season title.
In a season of great upheaval, it’s noteworthy that the top 10 didn’t have any major shakeups in the last week. The top seven in the country remained unchanged and the entire top 10 won out for the week. The top 10 is now made up of three schools from the ACC, three mid majors, two Big 12 teams, and two Big East teams, which means the Pac-12, SEC, and Big 10 are all left out in the cold. Perhaps it’s a form of cannibalization, but the Big 10 doesn’t show up in the rankings until Michigan State at 14. Conversely, both MSU and Maryland rank in the top 10 in the KenPom ratings with Ohio State and Iowa just outside, so the conference’s demise may be overstated.
Two of those Big 10 schools have a golden opportunity to enhance their resume on Thursday when Iowa travels to Maryland. It won’t get much easier over the weekend as those two will play Illinois and Rutgers, respectively. There isn’t a clear game of the week, but Duke @ Syracuse on Saturday will be entertaining and Kentucky @ Auburn could help establish a challenger to LSU in the wide open SEC.
What has been the biggest factor in UW’s recent struggles?
This poll is closed
Lack of true PG without Green
Not enough scoring from Carter
Insufficient role player (Wright, Bey, Hardy) development