Washington concluded its reshaping of the 2023-24 roster today by picking up a commitment from Rutgers transfer Paul Mulcahy. Last season Mulcahy averaged 8.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game for the Scarlet Knights. He has one season of eligibility remaining and picked the Huskies over visits to Xavier and Notre Dame. Washington now has no more available scholarships for next season.
Mulcahy was rated as the #2 available transfer at the moment in the purely analytical rankings at evanmiya.com. That’s less impressive now that the portal has largely been picked over but Mulcahy still rates as Miyakawa’s #37 overall transfer. The Huskies have now added #20 (Wheeler), #37 (Mulcahy), #126 (Wood), #174 (Holland), #549 (Breidenbach), and #1360 (Calmese). Last year Rutgers had its 2nd best adjusted offensive rating with Mulcahy on the court and its 3rd best adjusted defensive rating (out of 10 rotation players).
At 6’7 Mulcahy has the size of a small forward but functioned as the point guard most of the time in the Rutgers offense. He led the team in assists while putting up 41.6% FG, 37.0% 3pt, and 72.3% FT shooting splits. He saw his points and assists totals drop slightly between his junior and senior seasons (9.0 and 5.3 to 8.6 and 4.9) but also cut down on his turnovers (2.6 to 2.0) in almost an identical amount of playing time.
Mulcahy is an interesting player since his role has changed throughout his college career. He entered Rutgers as a mid-3-star recruit (#156 overall) and was viewed as a small forward. That first season he only averaged 2.0 assists per game coming off the bench and shot better than 60% on 2’s while struggling from outside at 22% on 3’s. Over the next few years Mulcahy’s assist rate gradually climbed while his overall field goal percentage dropped. He became more of a distributor and improved as a shooter although on a fairly low number of attempts given his usage rate as a perimeter player.
Last season Mulcahy shot just 50% at the rim which is lower than average especially for a guard with size. His midrange game is also a work in progress at 33% overall including 28% on runner/floaters. That’s made up for though with solid outside shooting. Mulcahy shot better than 33% on both contested and uncontested catch and shoot jumpers which suggests he can still be useful when mostly playing off the ball.
There were loud calls after it was announced that Hopkins was returning to revamp the offense given how much Washington’s offense has struggled to create ball movement in recent years. To this point we haven’t seen anything to suggest that the offense itself is meaningfully going to change its structure. But by adding Sahvir Wheeler and Paul Mulcahy the Huskies now have a pair of players who have averaged 5+ assists per game in a season. The only player to do that under Hopkins so far was Quade Green in a half season where he got a large chunk of those assists dropping it down low to a dominant post player in Isaiah Stewart.
Given his size it seems reasonable to think that Mulcahy can start at the shooting guard spot alongside Sahvir Wheeler. A likely starting lineup of 5’9 Wheeler, 6’7 Mulcahy, 6’7 Brooks, 6’8 Wood, and 7’1 Meah has enough size to make up for Wheeler being shorter than you’d typically want from one player at the top of the zone. Washington gets additional flexibility having a 6’7 player that can also run the point if necessary. This does mean that the bench is almost entirely made up of combo or shooting guards (Koren Johnson, Wesley Yates, Anthony Holland, and Nate Calmese). At least one if not two or three of those players are going to fall out of the rotation as the season goes on and they may not be happy about it.
There’s no question though that, excepting for chemistry concerns, this makes the Huskies better. My model moves up UW’s projected adjusted efficiency margin to +16.68 which would’ve finished 34th last season. This team absolutely has enough talent to be expected to make an NCAA tournament.
There are things that can hold them back. The big man depth is still a real concern if Franck Kepnang can’t recover fully from his ACL tear in reserve behind Braxton Meah. The head coach is Mike Hopkins... But if Hop can’t get to a tournament with this roster then no amount of financial trouble should be able to save his job yet again.
There are no more excuses. The starting lineup has 2 players that averaged 5+ assists, a pair of big wings that each averaged 15+ points and 6+ rebounds, and a center duo that each averaged 8+ points, 7+ rebounds, and 1.5+ blocks per game. The bench includes the leading freshman scorer in the country from last year, a top-50 recruit, and a 38% 3-point shooter. There may not have been enough money to make a move on Hopkins but there was enough in the NIL tank for UW to make moves in the portal and on paper this is now the best roster since the Green/McDaniels/Stewart team that started out hot then flamed out after Green became ineligible. Here’s to hoping for a better result.