Washington is Dominating the Bad Pac

Posted by Adam Butler on February 1st, 2019

Washington is dominating the Pac-12. This statement is both true and irrelevant, so we’ll focus on the former and how the Dawgs might be slowed. To validate the statement, Washington is undefeated in Pac-12 play (8-0) with an efficiency margin of +19.6. For context, that kind of margin would rate as a top-25 KenPom team. Speaking of KenPom, the Huskies now rate as the 37th-best team in the country, having improved nearly 20 spots since the beginning of Pac-12 play.

Mike Hopkins is Quietly Putting Together a Squad (USA Today Images)

What’s setting the Huskies apart is their defense, improving in year two of Mike Hopkins’ Syracuse-imported zone defense. In conference play, the Dawgs are allowing just 92.7 points per 100 possessions. For context, that’s on pace to be the best Pac-12 defense since Arizona posted an 87.0 defensive efficiency in 2015. For added context (and the less-favorable-to-this-narrative version), the Pac-12 just doesn’t score particularly efficiently, suggesting Washington’s above-average defense is augmented by really poor opponents. In pointing out as much, we’re of course at risk of belaboring the “Pac-12 sucks” narrative. The reality is, however, that Washington is going to lose a game (or two, or more). Who, amongst these poor opponents, is likely to knock them off?

From a timing perspective, the Arizona schools would seem to have the next best shot. They’ll each host the Huskies in the coming week. Arizona has a vaunted home court but has disappointed recently while Arizona State would seem to not quite have the shooting prowess (ranking 199th in effective FG%) to shoot their way over the zone. Of course math would suggest Washington drops one of these two games. Thus, once again leaning on math, I’m drawn to their upcoming match-up with Arizona State. The Sun Devils are one of the premier rebounding teams in the country, rating among the top 40 in both defensive and offensive rebounding rates. Washington, for all its strengths, is an aggressively poor defensive rebounding team. Opponents are collecting 33.2 percent of their misses against the Dawgs (326th worst, nationally). It’s the obvious flaw to the zone but it’s also a sort of bend-but-not-break characteristic. Stanford, for example, rebounded 43 percent of its misses against the Huskies and lost by 16 points.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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One response to “Washington is Dominating the Bad Pac”

  1. Marc says:

    The national narrative that the Pac-12 is having a historically poor season. While that is, mostly, correct pundits are incorrectly labeling Washington as a mediocre team. The Huskies could easily win two games and be a dark horse spoiler in the Round of 16. All that said…the league looks to have two teams in the NCAA tourney (UW and ASU). The conference tourney is going to be wide open and match up dependent – I could see Oregon State and UCLA as teams that could put together a hot stretch and steal a bid. What are your thoughts AB?

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