Jody Wynn’s Washington Huskies squad opens the season against San Diego State Aztecs.
Last season, both the Huskies and the Aztecs finished with identical 13-17 win/loss records but it would be foolish to say these teams are evenly matched.
The Huskies played in the nation’s toughest conference, the PAC-12, and on paper are a stronger team than the Aztecs of the Mountain West conference.
San Diego State is a team that Washington can, and should, beat– if they play their game and not the Aztecs’.
Here’s a few keys to a Washington victory over the San Diego State Aztecs.
WASHINGTON HUSKIES – QUICK KEYS TO BEATING SAN DIEGO STATE
1. DAWGS, RUN LIKE YOU’VE NEVER RUN BEFORE
Let’s not beat around the bush the Aztecs struggle in transition.
Offensively, the Aztecs scored 240 points in transition.
Defensively, the Aztecs gave up 353 fastbreak points on 44.6% shooting by their opponents.
A transition deficit of – 113 transition points for the Aztecs.
Comparatively, the Huskies’ offense scored 395 transition points against tougher opponents.
Defensively, the Huskies allowed 503 transition points on 44.1% shooting by their (tougher) opponents.
A deficit of -108 transition points for the Huskies.
Where’s the advantage beyond more transition points scored, you say?
Last season, SDSU only played transition defense 15.7% of the time (defending 393 fastbreak possessions); so the Aztecs clearly faced opponents that didn’t excel at creating fastbreak opportunities.
And SDSU allowed 0.898 points per transition (fastbreak) possession — again, an average transition defense performance (40th percentile), per Synergy.
The Aztecs allowed opponents’ an offensive pace of 94.5 Points per 100 Opponent Possessions which ranks in the bottom 25% (262nd) nationally. This indicates if the Huskies can increase their offensive pace by successfully creating numerous fastbreak opportunities versus SDSU, they will score…a lot.
Last season, the pace of the Huskies’ offense was only slightly above average at 90.3 Points per 100 Possessions — ranking in the 48th percentile nationally, but only 4 points below the pace allowed by the Aztecs to inferior opponents.
A significant but reachable 10-point increase in pace for the Huskies against the Aztecs would elevate Washington’s offensive pace to on par with the top 25% of teams nationally — measured by Points Per 100 Possessions.
Either way, the Huskies will need to score fastbreak baskets to win this game.
2. HUSKIES SHOOT THE THREE IN TRANSITION
Transition three-point shooting separates transition offenses of teams operating at a high level in their fastbreak offense, from those teams that are just running on offense.
The San Diego State Aztecs made only 17 threes in transition out of 60 attempts for a transition three-point percentage of 28.3%.
The only returning Aztecs player that shot transition threes at over 30% is senior guard Téa Adams (30.8%) — ironically a Kirkland, WA native out of Juanita High School.
By comparison, the Washington Huskies made 41 of 134 transition threes for 30.6% shooting percentage in transition.
The Huskies return Darcy Rees (50% on transition threes); Haley Van Dyke (47.1% on transition threes); and Khayla Rooks (38.9% on transition threes) all making transition threes at a high rate — Missy Peterson, out for the season due to a knee injury, made 40% of her transition threes.
Shooting transition threes is an elite offensive strength that the Huskies possess and they should exploit this advantage as much as possible against San Diego State and against future opponents.
3. HUSKIES HALFCOURT OFFENSE FEATURES PICK & ROLLS AND SCREENS
The Aztecs struggle mightily at defending pick-and-roll (PNR) action, but for some reason are only forced to defend it 4.7% of the time.
Apparently the Mountain West conference never got the memo, because SDSU only defended 117 PNR possessions — giving up an average of 1.026 points per pick and roll. Thus, SDSU ranks in the bottom 10% of all Division One teams defending the Pick and Roll.
Likewise, SDSU is also poor at defending any offensive screen actions. SDSU ranked in the bottom 12% nationally, while surrendering 0.936 points per screen action (excluding pick-and-rolls).
But once again the Mountain West let SDSU’s defense off easy by only running screen actions 6.8% of the time versus SDSU for a paltry total of 171 possessions.
Needless to say, the Washington Huskies should serve the Aztecs a steady diet of Pick-and-Roll and other screen actions in their halfcourt offense. SDSU is literally giving points away.
4. DO NOT GET INTO A HALFCOURT THREE-POINT SHOOTING CONTEST
The Aztecs specialize in the halfcourt three-ball. In fact, 54.3% of jump shots taken by San Diego State are from behind the three-point line.
San Diego State made 147 of 424 attempts, a 34.7 shooting percentage from three which ranks in the Top 10% nationally (91st percentile).
Despite being poor halfcourt defenders overall, the Aztecs somehow held opponents to only 28.6% three-point shooting; which is very good (75th percentile nationally) and their most impressive defensive area.
Meanwhile, the Huskies shot 29.4% on all three-point attempts overall — 158 made of 537 attempts — which ranks in the bottom 50% nationally (39th percentile).
It is clear the Huskies would be playing into the Aztecs’ hands if they settled for just any three-point shots in their halfcourt offense; without focusing on getting those shots off screens and pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop actions that San Diego State struggles to defend.
PREDICTION The Washington Huskies defeat the San Diego State Aztecs with multiple fastbreak opportunities; and a halfcourt offense heavy on screens and pick-and-rolls.