There is an old adage that says, “Good defense leads to offense.” This is often predicated on the assumption that a team can force a tough shot, pull down the rebound, make a good outlet pass, and run up the floor for an easy bucket. This works great for teams like UNC, Duke, and Gonzaga.
It is well known that is not the game the Cougs play. The rebound is pulled down, held onto until the defense retreats, and the point guard walks the ball up the floor. So in that sense well-played defense does not often lead to good offense. There are occasions when this team runs, but it is not off of missed shots, it is off of turnovers at the top of the key.
Klay’s “dunk of the year” came off of a steal at about the free throw line. He got a little pass from Caleb and the rest is history. This play is even more awesome because fast breaks like these are a rarity this year. Sadly, these are the kind of easy buckets that the Cougs need because they have become almost totally reliant on jump shots within the set offense. The guards are not jumping passing lanes, not taking chances with poke-aways, they are staying home and making teams take tough shots. (Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that, it is why we have the 16th best eFG% against in the country.)
This team overall just doesn’t get many steals. The Cougs are second to last in the country in steal%. The four guards that eat up most of the minutes (TR, KT, Nik, and Capers) all have steal% numbers under two. For reference, Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low had numbers of 3.5 and 2.9 respectively last year. So Coug guards were stealing the ball twice as often last year, leading to fast break buckets. How often have TR, KT, Nik, or Capers jumped a passing lane this year? Kyle was a master at that.
So what’s the solution? Sadly it may be “wait till next year.” TR has never really been adept at stealing the ball, so there is no reason to expect much improvement there. The silver lining is that Kyle and Derrick had comparable steal% numbers to Klay during their freshman campaigns (Marcus’s is ridiculously low, at .6, but he possesses the athletic ability to have better numbers). What Bennett seems to do is make sure the kids have the staples of the Pack defense down (keep guys in front of you at all cost!). As they get older, he may give them a little more leeway when it comes to taking chances on steals.
This is obviously one of many reasons why the Coug offense goes on these ridiculously long dry spells at least once a game. The others have been beaten to death on this site. Just another reason to miss Kyle and Derrick. Sorry.
Thanks to kenpom.com for the stats.