Washington's zone defense could be losing its edge

Could the Washington Huskies basketball team (17-7, 7-4) already be losing their edge? The Dawgs lost big to the Oregon Ducks yesterday in Eugene, 65-40 and it has some wondering if Washington can re-gain momentum. Pac-12 Analyst Don MacLean, joined The Ian Furness Show today and said teams are starting to figure out how the Huskies operate the zone defense. 

"Moving ahead here, the last three weeks of conference season; it’s not going to be as easy for them, not going to be as easy for their zone to trick people, to get people out of their element. (Teams) will have counters now that Washington will have to counter those counters. It’s going to be interesting to watch, because they’ve had so much success with it and teams struggled so much against it. I don’t think it’s going to be that way here the next three weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what mike Hopkins does to counter what other teams are doing."

Mike Hopkins is still seeing a fair amount of success with the 2-3 zone defense, this season. Opponents are only averaging 72.2 points per game, compared to last season under Head Coach Lorenzo Romar at 81.1 ppg. 

However, MacLean said teams that are successful at the mid-range jump shot will be able to crack Hopkins' zone defense. 

“That’s what’s open and we’ve talked about it a lot. Unless you have a guy, that’s not an easy shot to catch it off the pass, turn, face, and shoot a touch shot, it’s not like a full jumper where you’re behind the three point line and you can get into a rhythm. It’s almost more like a flip shot if you’re inside the foul line… That’s where you have to attack it. I did the Gonzaga game and Mark Few had a great game plan. He would get it to foul line and then have his big dribble at the big, which is (Sam) Timmins, or whoever is back there and make them commit and then drop it off and by that point the wings are kind of sucked back. He also had the option to kick it out. I’m surprised more teams haven’t tried to do what Gonzaga did, but I don’t think they have the personnel that Gonzaga has. But that’s how you have to do it because Washington is not going to let you shoot uncontested three’s, there just not. So you have to figure something else to do and again not a lot of guys like to operate in that 12-15 foot area."

MacLean said Husky fans shouldn't be too overly concerned with yesterday's loss to Oregon, due to the high parody in the Pac-12. 

"You knew the second time around (Pac-12 conference play) it was probably going to a look a little different. I chalk last night up to last weekend. They rise up and beat Arizona State, and then they rise up again and beat Arizona. I was not surprised, I was a little surprised by the score, but wasn’t surprised at all that Washington went in there and lost to Oregon because Oregon lost by 35 last Saturday to Stanford. So it all kind of just lined up to be one of those human nature things."

Washington has seven conference games left before the Pac-12 tournament and MacLean is optimistic that the Huskies will make the dance. 

"I was set on four (Pac-12 teams making the NCAA Tournament), but after last night with UCLA winning, that win helps them tremendously. I think we can get five in now. I think as long as USC, Arizona State, and Washington… They don’t have to win every game. They just need to do what they need to do, maybe win one in the pac-12 tournament and have UCLA get a couple more signature wins down the home-stretch, I think we get five in."

The Huskies are fourth in the Pac-12 standings, behind USC (17-8, 8-4), UCLA (17-7, 8-4), and Arizona (19-6, 9-3).  

You can listen to Furness' full interview above with Don MacLean, or on the podcast, here. 

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