What's wrong with Washington? It's a fair question. The Huskies are clearly talented -- arguably the most talented team in the Pac-12. They can clearly play with very good teams, as they showed in a thrilling loss to Marquette in Madison Square Garden. Before Sunday's 19-point home loss to South Dakota State, in which Washington gave up 92 points to Nate Wolters and the Jackrabbits (a good mid-major team, but one Washington should easily beat at home), the Huskies had yet to suffer a truly bad loss yet this season. At the very least, every loss was close.
It was easy to look at this team, see some rather promising per-possession numbers, and assume Romar's young players were still just figuring things out. They'd get there eventually, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. The jury is still out. But it must be a bit of a bummer to Huskies fans to hear their coach cite the team's three problems to date, as related by the Seattle Times's Percy Allen. According to Romar, the three issues are as follows:
Offensive rhythm (particularly movement, spacing and passing)
Hold on. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those three huge problems?
Of course, Romar isn't wrong. His team has not defended well to date, particularly on the ball, where the Huskies somehow manage to foul shooters frequently while forcing opponents into turnovers on just 18.2 percent of their possessions (which ranks No. 297 in the country, per KenPom (subscription required)). Usually, teams that foul often force turnovers for their trouble. Or vice versa. (No fouls, few turnovers.) The Huskies have somehow inverted that logic, and not in a positive direction.
Let's leave offensive stuff alone, because that looks like the area Romar should expect the most improvement going forward. Despite its struggle and high roster turnover, his team has played pretty well on the offensive end already this season. I wouldn't freak out about that.
But chemistry? That's the kind of vaguely defined quality a coach knows when he sees. If you have it, you can exceed the sum of your parts. If you don't, you may be bound to disappoint. From the Times:
Repairing a broken defense that's allowed 76.3 points per game and getting players to share the ball is easier than improving Washington's sour chemistry, which is the third and arguably most important area of concern for Romar.
It might require shifting responsibilities, redistributing shot attempts among five players who average at least nine points and redefining roles.
"We have not settled on that yet," Romar said. "Who's supposed to be taking shots and where. We're still evolving that way."
These things may come. Washington is still young. It's still incorporating an unfamiliar backcourt of Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten Jr., two players whose skill sets don't necessarily align. It's still early in the season. Another down Pac-12 should prove rather forgiving. Perhaps it can be used as a learning lab as well as a full-on competitive environment.
Either way, when you ask a coach what he thinks are his team's three main problem areas, and he says, in so many words, "defense, offense and chemistry," well, no wonder that team is struggling. It's like saying: "Hey, Mr. Engineer, what's the biggest thing holding back your bridge project right now?" "Well, we're still figuring out where to put the cables. Also, the support beams aren't ready yet." In other words: everything.
Even one of the Huskies' issues would be cause for concern. All three are downright discouraging.