Is It Time For Washington to Embrace a Four-Guard Lineup?Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 22nd, 2013
Things have not started well for Washington. After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons come NCAA Tournament time, there was quite a bit of optimism around the program, what with a McDonald’s All-American coming in at point guard, a big-time scorer on the wing returning for his senior season, and a whole host of big men up front to interchange. Now here we are, a couple weeks into the year and the Huskies already have a couple of losses, including an 18-point blowout last night against Indiana, as well as some injury issues along the frontcourt. Right now this team doesn’t look like a squad anywhere near the top of the Pac-12.
Certainly the injuries are part of the issue. Veteran forward Desmond Simmons is out until Christmas shopping is well underway following a knee surgery, while versatile sophomore big man Jernard Jarreau is out for the year after tearing his ACL two minutes into the season. After those setbacks, Lorenzo Romar was left with just three options up front: senior center Perris Blackwell, junior forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., and sophomore center Gilles Dierickx. Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco, is a good, skilled post man, but at the end of the day he’s an earthbound 6’8” center. Kemp is nice in theory, but his production has never begun to approach the hype generated by his name. And Dierickx? This isn’t a guy meant to be on the court at this point in his career in big-time college basketball, as his offense lags significantly behind his defense. Thursday night against Indiana, the weaknesses of those three were made abundantly clear. Kemp fouled out in nine minutes, Blackwell had a double-double but was regularly abused by the more athletic Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, and the team as a whole grabbed a woeful 41.2 percent of their opponent’s missed shots. And despite seven blocked shots, there isn’t a great rim protector on this team.
Which brings us to the second problem: perimeter defense. See, saying that a team blocked seven shots (and Blackwell and Dierickx were responsible for three each) but that it lacks a great rim protector seems to be a couple of thoughts at odds with each other. But the Washington perimeter defenders regularly allowed penetration, providing those big guys with plenty of chances to chase down those blocks. Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss was no match for his sophomore counterpart Yogi Ferrell, Andrew Andrews wasn’t a whole lot better, and as a result, it is no surprise that the Huskies gave up more than 1.30 points per possession to the Hoosiers. On the year, the Huskies are allowing their opponent to take 38.6 percent of their shots at the rim because of an obvious inability to stop anybody on dribble penetration.
So, what’s the long-term prognosis? Well, things may get slightly better when Simmons returns. But in the meantime, why not just scrap any pretense of throwing a traditional lineup out there and embrace a four-guard lineup? I don’t yet have the plus/minus numbers I’m looking for, but I’m willing to bet that when the Huskies ran the four-out, one-in lineup on Thursday night, there were a heck of a lot better off than the 10 or so minutes when they tried to play two bigs together. You see, the Huskies are stacked at the wing. They’ve got JuCo transfer Mike Anderson, freshman Darin Johnson and junior Hikeem Stewart (admittedly, not a big part of the current rotation) all coming off the bench. And, not only are these guys all probably better defensively than any of the Huskies’ starting guards, they’re all capable of chipping in on the glass. Anderson, in particular, is a big physical guard who can rebound with the best of them. And, whatever you would be giving up on the glass, you would hopefully be making up for on the offensive end, spreading the floor for scorers and making the Huskies even more dangerous in transition. While this change isn’t going to come overnight, expect Romar and company to run even more four-guard looks tonight against a perimeter-oriented Boston College team.