The first question that followed Hopkins’ arrival in Seattle: would Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone arriving with him?
Washington played exclusively zone in Hopkins’ first year. The Huskies remained totally committed to the 2-3, no matter how opposing teams were shooting the ball or finding openings.
The defensive numbers don’t quite tell the story. UW allowed opponents to score 73 points per game and shoot 44.7 percent — both figures in the bottom half of the country. The Huskies struggled to rebound the basketball on the defensive end all season and often found themselves in foul trouble late in games.
Defense resonate in Washington
Despite those figures, the Washington defense found an identity. The zone was unlike anything else Pac-12 teams have faced over the last few seasons. The energy, athleticism, and versatility of the UW defenders was put on full display. Often times, Washington’s defense fueled its offense.
Thybulle was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after an electric season on the defensive end of the floor — placing his name among those of the best defenders in all of college basketball.
Led by Thybulle, Washington racked up 274 steals. UW ranked in the top 20 in the nation in both steals and blocks.
While the Huskies allowed some high scoring outings by opponents, the identity is what makes this season’s defense a victory. The 2-3 zone will be a part of Husky basketball for years to come, while length and athleticism will become UW’s defensive hallmarks.