In my opinion, non-conference college basketball is a jumbled mess. Unlike college football, in which there is a clear hierarchy of competitive major conference teams and a lower tier of mediocre FCS teams, the success and talent of a college basketball team isn’t based on power conferences. There are dozens of competent teams in several questionable sounding conferences, and teams like Washington make up their non-conference schedule by playing several of them at home while playing a couple road games against more high-profile opponents that are sprinkled throughout.
Especially in the case of Washington, the coaching staff doesn’t seem to approach these games with as much urgency as conference play, to the point that the season of Romar’s teams really doesn’t seem to start until after New Year’s. So, it can honestly be tough to tell how the Huskies are playing compared to other Pac-12 teams, or just other teams at the national level. While a loss to a team like Albany is clearly bad by any standards, teams like Colorado State and Nevada that defeated Washington are tougher to gauge, as oftentimes they are making the tournament, something almost all Pac-12 teams, including Washington, cannot claim, but it’s easy to simply assume a loss to such an opponent is horrible.
Also, with the Huskies running a new offense and playing such slower ball, it can be difficult to tell what’s really killing them when they’re losing. Conventional stats can be misleading. Oftentimes the offense looks slow and sloppy, but the Huskies usually shoot a pretty high field goal percentage. On defense, they rarely pass the eye test and allow too many easy shots, but also hold opponents to fairly low percentages and scoring totals.
So, I decided to take a look at some less conventional stats over at statsheet.com. First, I checked out our offensive points per possession, and the results were surprisingly positive. Washington is tied for 3rd in the conference and 48th in the nation at 1.09 points per possession. That isn’t elite by any means, but given how ugly things have been at times, and how much Gaddy has struggled to get his teammates easy baskets, I wouldn’t have been shocked if it had been much worse.
On defense, things don’t look nearly as bright. The Huskies come in dead last in the conference and a staggering 261st in the country with 1.03 points allowed per possession. That means that they have only held opponents to .06 points per possession than they themselves manage to score, and that is a body of work that was produced against several teams that are actually not as good as teams in the Pac-12. For every surprisingly talented team like Colorado State, there have been the Seattle University and Jackson State types that should have allowed for a much bigger disparity between those two stats.
Somehow, someway, Romar needs to accelerate what modest progress we have seen in this team over the course of the non-conference slate, because that level of play will not translate into success in the conference standings, and the non-conference defeats at home are quickly dooming Washington’s already slim chances at an at-large bid.