Washington basketball coach Mike Hopkins says he may lean on a guard-heavy lineup and return to strictly running zone.
A couple weeks ago, Larry Stone at The Seattle Times mentioned an interesting tidbit regarding the Huskies’ offensive possibilities in the upcoming season, confirming something that Husky fans were theorizing about for a while since the offseason transfer news of Cole Bajema and Erik Stevenson.
In an interview with Huskies coach Mike Hopkins about the upcoming season, Stone said Hopkins mentioned switching the offense to a four-guard lineup in order to better feature Stevenson, a 6-foot-3 transfer guard who averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 24.7 minutes last season at Wichita State before conflict with coach Gregg Marshall led to his departure.
This means that Hopkins has faith that Stevenson, given his situation at Wichita State, will most likely receive a waiver and be eligible this year to play. Bajema has a similar skillset and could potentially plug in well if he is granted a waiver, but the fact that Hopkins mentioned Stevenson and not Bajema could tell us about his confidence level in the likelihood of Bajema getting a similar waiver.
Stevenson’s potential for shooting is incredibly valuable and starter-worthy, but the same can be said for what Quade Green (if eligible), Marcus Tsohonis and RaeQuan Battle bring to the table as well, and they’ve been around longer. Given the Huskies’ complete lack of frontcourt depth, featuring all of them together as much as possible feels like an obvious choice, and maybe the only choice.
Earlier in the summer we discussed the emerging need for Hopkins to place more of an emphasis on the backcourt — this is really the biggest expression of that intended shift. The offense will have to flow through the guards this year either way regardless of how many are on the court, but this sets the offense up best for success (at least on paper).
In the same article, Stone notes that Hopkins “stressed a re-commitment to his beloved 2-3 zone defense” for the upcoming year after his experimentation with man-to-man last season (to mixed results). That in and of itself is not surprising, because the personnel in any four-guard lineup are far more suited to the zone anyways. As it stands right now, there should be plenty of length and athleticism available for Hopkins to keep up with teams hoping to abuse matchup issues.
These were both pretty common-sense choices, things we likely expected to see at some point. But to hear Hopkins mention Stevenson specifically as a focal point in the offense is intriguing, and a strengthened full return to zone next year likely won’t hurt. Hopefully news about Stevenson and Green’s eligibility will come sooner rather than later and we can get a more clear picture of the makeup of this Huskies team.