We all lament the Cougs' lack of effectiveness against the 2-3 zone, but I find interesting the number of readers of this site who have repeatedly expressed that they are confounded by this, "given how well we shoot from beyond the arc."
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable theory, since WSU has shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range this year -- good for 50th nationally. Consequently, a lot of you are waiting for the game when we inevitably bust out and kill the zone.
I don't buy it. Count me among those who think zoning the Cougs is a great strategy for the opponent.
When talking about WSU's long-range shooting, the first image most people have is of Klay Thompson raining 3s on the opposition. And there's a reason for that -- the stellar team 3-point percentage was largely built on Klay's shooting during the nonconference schedule.
And this is where I think this whole "we are a great 3-point team" argument falls off a cliff. Outside of Klay, who else on this team would you qualify as a great long-range shooter?
Nikola Koprivica? Sure, he's shooting an absurd 50 percent from 3-point range, but let me ask you this: Is there a person on the planet -- even Nik -- who thinks this is his true talent level? Would you consider him a "shooter"? I sure wouldn't, and the fact that he's averaging less than three attempts per game suggests Ken Bone doesn't, either. Standing wide open, I've gotten to a point where I like my chances with Nik. But I certainly don't want him jacking up five or six 3s a game, which would inevitably mean taking some contested shots.
Reggie Moore? Until last weekend, when he went 8-for-14, he was shooting 33 percent on the year (15 of 45). Maybe this past weekend is what he's actually capable of, but his stroke looks inconsistent to me. Besides, settling for a lot of 3s is exactly what opponents want him to do, because they know he's most dangerous in the lane.
Xavier Thames? He's only taken 17 3-point shots and hit ... four.
Abe Lodwick? Sweatpants all-star.
Mike Harthun? In a year-and-a-half, I have yet to see this so-called stroke of his.
What I'm driving at is this: While all of these guys are OK out there -- and I don't mind any of them (even Harthun) taking a wide-open 3 -- I certainly don't want to see any of them standing around and firing away against a zone. There's really only one guy who's actually good enough to shoot the opposition out of a zone, and that's Klay Thompson. But when teams are generally doing what UCLA did to him on Saturday, which is sending two defenders at him every time he touches the ball, the odds of that happening aren't great. It's resulted in Klay shooting 25 percent -- 14 of 56 -- in Pac-10 play.
I'm absolutely with Bone that the Cougs need to make more 3s to be more effective against opposing zones; I'm just not going to hold my breath that it's going to happen unless we do a better job of moving the ball in and out of the zone in order to free up some wide-open looks for guys who are merely above average 3-point shooters.
I would actually be more surprised by that occurrence than what has happened so far.
The good news, of course, is that the Huskies run very little zone. If we can handle their ball-pressure and not turn it over a bunch, scoring should be pretty easy. When that happens, expect them to drop into the zone. And while it's not a very good zone, just how we handle it very well could determine the outcome of the game.
Let's just hope it's not determined by a bunch of average shooters jacking up -- and missing -- a lot of 3s.