In the 2019-20 season, the Washington Huskies had an average of 72.1 Possessions per 40 Minutes (per HerHoopStats) this placed the Dawgs in the middle of the pack of Division One1 offenses — ie., 112th out of 351 teams. This statistic measures the pace of the Huskies offense, i.e. since a possession is the entire time a team possesses the ball, generally a team with more fast break plays will have more possessions; and, as a result, their possessions per 40 minutes (pace) will be higher.
HUSKIES STYLE OF OFFENSE ATTRACTS A STYLE OF DEFENSE
Huskies faced man defense the majority of last season — the Huskies played 30 games and their opponents (non-conference or PAC-12) chose player-to-player defense 83.2% of the time – – suggesting that Washington opponents scouted the Huskies’ man-to-man offense and viewed it as a weakness.
Against player-to-player defense, the Huskies averaged 0.74 points per offensive possession which ranks in the bottom 50% of NCAA Division 1 teams — and against zone defense Washington averaged even less, 0.73 points per possession.
All of the returning Huskies, except Khayla Rooks, averaged more points (per possession) against player-to-player defense than they averaged against zone defenses.
[See Chart Below – note Huskies walk-on Callie Lind did not have sufficient playing time to accumulate reliable representative data to predict future performance.]
INDIVIDUAL SCORING AGAINST PLAYER-TO-PLAYER DEFENSE VS. ZONE DEFENSE (measured by points per possession)
This season the Huskies will not have the reliable scoring of Amber Melgoza — averaging .859 points per possession (ppp) against man-to-man and a team-leading 1.03 points ppp against zone — so it stands to reason that the Huskies may need to reevaluate and tweak their offense to deal with this new reality.
STYLE MAKES POSSESSIONS, POSSESSIONS MAKE POINTS
In their half-court offense, for the most part the Huskies didn’t set screens for the ball-handler and when they did it was primarily for Amber Melgoza.
Melgoza was the ballhandler in Washington Pick & Roll actions 68% of the time — usually with a big stepping out to set a high screen just under the 3-point line for her.
Washington’s lack of on-ball screens put a lot of pressure on Huskies ballhandlers to beat their defenders one-on-one (remember the Huskies are facing man-to-man defense almost all of the time).
This now presents a bigger obstacle with the graduation of Amber Melgoza and Mai-Loni Henson–two players with the ability (and willingness) to put their heads down and dribble-drive at a defender.
We can chalk up not relying on ball screens as Coach Wynn’s offensive philosophy (a philosophy shared by many coaches, by the way).
However, without a scorer capable of freelancing like Melgoza, Washington is going to require an offense that provides good spacing for players to operate with the ball.
[There were quite a few instances last year when Huskies were late in the shot clock and a player (not named Amber Melgoza) was forced to drive against a defender into a clogged lane.]
Conceptually, more spacing would mean either a 5-Out offense (all players around the 3-point line) or a 4-Out 1-In (usually one player around the free throw line extended).
The 5-out generally sends players cutting through the lane to the opposite side of the court; with bigs generally rolling to the basket before going to the opposite side if they don’t receive a pass.
The 4-out usually places a big in the middle of the floor near the foul line usually to set screens for teammates before rolling to the basket or popping out for a possible jumpshot.
At times, Coach Wynn’s Huskies have demonstrated both concepts as part of their offense, it may be time to tweak these concepts based on returning players’ strengths and weaknesses.
MORE SPACE, MORE THREES (OR BETTER THREES)
The greatest benefit of 5-out spacing is the creation of open 3-pointers, as well as driving lanes for quick and athletic dribble-drive players (because you’re driving from farther out near the three point line).
Although the Washington Huskies had the 5th most three-point attempts (19.8) per game in the PAC-12 last season, the Dawgs were 7th in three-pointers made (6.0) per game; and 9th in 3-point percentage (30.3%) in the conference (add non conference games and the Huskies 3-point attempts per game jump to 22.1 attempts).
It is clear Head Coach Jody Wynn embraces modern basketball offense by heavily relying on 3-point shooting; however, the Huskies simply must shoot a better percentage to take advantage of three-point opportunities.
The good news is the Huskies had no problem finding plenty of three-point opportunities, the issue is whether the Huskies need better quality three-pointers or just better three-point shooting (or both).
Below is a chart of the 3-Point Shot Rate of returning Huskies (percentage of player’s shots that are three-pointers versus that player’s 3-Point Shooting Percentage.
Only three returning Huskies shot better than 30% from the three-point line: Darcy Rees (35.8%); Missy Peterson (35.2%); and Haley Van Dyke (30.1%).
Here is the shot chart of the returning Huskies shooting under 30% from the three-point line. (circled numbers = made shots; non-circled numbers = missed shots)
The biggest issue is the volume of the under 30% shooters is 173 three-pointers, only 59 three-pointers less than the volume of the over-30% shooters(Missy Peterson, Haley Van Dyke, Darcy Rees) with 232 three-pointers.
It is entirely possible that the reason teams are playing almost exclusively man against the Huskies is opposing defenses can better choose which 3-point shooters to defend, thereby leaving shooters open from three that are less likely to make the shot.
There are multiple ways to run the 5-out/4-out spacing offenses; and it is possible that the Huskies may need to incorporate more dribble handoffs and other types of on-ball screens this season to get 3-point shots for their best shooters (or maybe just get better shots for all shooters).
Here is some video of different 5-out spacing schemes using dribble-handoff (DHO) screens that lead to open 3-point shots for specific offensive players — first, by Iowa State and then by the Boston Celtics.
A dribble-handoff literally involves dribbling towards a teammate and handing them the ball as you cross paths; and simultaneously the passer uses their body to shield the defense from the player receiving the ball.
As you can see it is a minor adjustment to a free-flowing offense to have a dribble-handoff screen set for a ball handler to shoot an open three-pointer as opposed to a traditional pick-and-roll (or no screen at all).
We will examine some other solutions to creating better shots in the following segment.
Next in PART THREE of this series we’ll continue to take a specific look at offensive changes that may suit the offensive flexibility of Coach Wynn’s lineup this season; including possible specific roles of returning Huskies in a 5-Out/4-Out spacing type of offense.