Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baring Their Fangs

Yeah, the Huskies should have won by ten. They held off the scrappy UCF team and again a player put together a career day against UConn. Taylor and O’Donnell combined for 10 for 23 from three point range. After a few days at the beach, the young pups found themselves in a scrum and they came out bloody but on top. Sure the Maine game was impressive, but a win like this builds more for a team.

The back court put together a great outside shooting night, going 8 for 14 from three. During the first half Dyson was jogging and trailing his defender but in the second half he turned his game up a notch and ran the break well and drove to the basket. He has the knack for getting to the line and hitting 11 for 13 is fantastic. On the other hand A.J. clanked his only two shots that would have sealed the game. That’s when Austrie told Calhoun to send him in and put the ball in his hands . He got to the line and sank them. Clutch. It is the only thing missing from A.J.’s game. He’s scored points, dished the ball and played solid defense but he hasn’t carried the team over the finish line.

UConn has yet to rebound well against three point shooting teams. Out of all the starters for UCF, the player second to last in rebounds was the center, Stanley Billings. With the long ball, the big men are letting the ball bounce over them and get into the clutches of the guards and small forwards. Either Uconn’s smalls are retreating to soon or they are getting beat to the ball. A.J. and Austrie combined for only 1 rebound.

In the second half the referees tried to even out the discrepancy in the free throws and not foul out the whole starting lineup for UCF. Several blatant calls, the shoe tackle and Dyson’s fast break bump, were missed and lighter fouls called on the other end. In the end it was Uconn’s free throw shooting that won this game. 27 for 38 is a huge improvement. A combination of strength and free throw shooting will win ball games.

There is more parody within The Big East then in prior years. Teams like Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and West Virginia all have solid clubs but still have their weaknesses. Uconn could put things together and be competitive with these top tier teams.

This game let the pups sharpen their teeth and sneak out of their first hostile environment, against a good team, with a victory. Its not a statement game but a boost of confidence before heading into conference play. Now they must get ready for a very talented back court in Seton Hall. The smalls are going to have their hands full.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

UConn Box Set Play

Friday, December 28, 2007

Big East Power Rankings

1.Pittsburgh. They proved that they are for real with the win against Duke. It is the signature win so far for The Big East. They play solid defense, ranking 3rd, and consistent offense. They attack the boards and are led by the effort of freshman DeJuan Blair, who leads the league in offensive rebounds. Junior, Levance Fields has become a solid point guard. This team has balance and plays hard every game. Though Sam Young is a great scorer, the only knock against this team is their offensive output, only ranking 8th.

2. Marquette. This team is only going to go where Dominic James carries them to. Jerel Mcneal and James make a nasty defensive combo. Together they average 4.80 steals a game. They are in the top 6 in both offensive and defensive scoring but they are horrendous on the glass which could be their downfall.

3. Georgetown. Their poor offense finally cost them a game but this team is still not clicking on all cylinders. They still hold the best defense in the league but when you combine that with a 12th ranked defense, then your bound to lose some close games. They weren’t able to slow down Memphis and with The Big East full of fast back courts, it could pose a problem for this team. They are lacking a legitimate point guard.

4. West Virginia. They hold the top spot in offense and second in defense. The only reason why they sit behind Georgetown is their easy schedule. Their last 8 games where against, New Mexico State, MD Eastern Shore, Winthrop, Auburn, Duquesne, UMBC, Radford, and Canisius. They make up for their lack of athletic ability inside with pin point outside shooting and a smothering perimeter defense. Their assists to turnover margin is at an insane +7.73. Juniors, Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander, combine for 31.5 points a game and play a great inside-outside game.

5. Villanova. This team is still trying to figure things out. They’ve played a relatively easy schedule so far and their problems are evident. They need to shore up the defense or they are prime to plummet down the standings. They have a great perimeter game and Scottie Reynolds is the real deal but they are going to need more from the rest of the crew.

6. Connecticut. 1st in defense field goal percentage and 4th in scoring has shown that the Huskies are improved over last year. They rank 1st in offensive rebounding and block shots a game and have a well balance mix of front and back court players. A.J. Price leads the league in assists to turnovers and assists a game. They lack a perimeter game and a legitimate scorer and they need to beat a team with comparable talent.

7. Notre Dame. Luke Harangody and Kyle Mcalarney lead the Fighting Irish in a great inside-outside threat. Notre Dame leads the league in assists and battle hard on the boards. Ryan Ayers is a player that teams need to stay close to. He can shoot from anywhere on the court. The jury is still out as to if Notre Dame is for real. Their easy schedule has produced favorable numbers.

8. Louisville. This is by far the most disappointing team. They have not shown up at all on the offensive side of the ball, only breaking 80 points once in the last 9 games. They bring it defensively but with the 13th ranked offense, it leaves Louisville in tight ball games and they have had a hard time closing them out. They are average or worse in most of the leagues stats except outside shooting. They have little room for error left with a long season still to go.

9. Syracuse. With a young team, the hardest thing to teach is to play hard every possession on defense. They rank 14th in that department. They make up for it with the 2nd ranked offense but they rely to heavily on the perimeter game. Freshmen Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn average 33.6 points a game combined. Greene and Rick Jackson are also in the top 11 in block shots a game and help secure the zone but teams are still able to get to many easy buckets.

10. Seton Hall. It will be amazing if Brian Laing and Eugene Harvey keep up their torrent pace while playing every minute of every game. They pose the greatest scoring threat in the league with a combined 38.3 points a game. With all their effort on the offensive side, their defense is terrible, coming in dead last. Its amazing that they can put up the numbers on offense without a great perimeter game. They have to many deficiencies that they are not a legitimate threat to the top tier of Big East teams.

11. Providence. They are a middle of the row team right now and haven’t taken advantage of their size like many experts thought they would. Coming in at 10th in rebounding margin is disappointing for this promising team. They are dead last in defensive rebounds and are giving up to many second chance points. Brian Mckenzie and Jeff Xavier are great outside shooters and Weyinmi Efejuku is turning into a solid player but this team needs more from Geoff McDermott to turn this season around.

12. USF. After a lousy start, Southern Florida has righted the ship but they still have an ocean to travel before making a splash into the upper echelon. They sit in the middle or lower end of every statistic and Dominique Jones can’t do it all himself. He needs Chris Howard and Kentrell Gransberry to score more before they take that next step.

13. Rutgers. Being dead last in offense and middle of the pack in defense isn’t a good recipe for success. They are last in 3-point percentage, assists and assists to turnovers. Hamady Ndiaye is turning into a great enforcer down low but they lack any offensive threat and are in desperate need of a point guard.

14. St. John’s. D.J. Kennedy and Eugene Lawrence are playing well but this team is lacking in every department. Larry Wright has a great outside shot but freshman Justin Burrell hasn’t produced yet and the team just hasn’t gelled.

15. Cincinnati. This historic school has taken quite a slide. They rank near to last in both offense and defense. They can’t make an outside shot and are getting killed on the glass. Nothing is going right. Deonta Vaughn is playing well but he can’t do it all by himself. John Williamson needs to step up.

16. DePaul. Having a league worst -4.5 point scoring margin a game is all you need to know. They can’t score and can’t stop the opposing team. Draelon Burns and Dar Tucker are playing well but not good enough to bring DePaul out of the Big East cellar. Mac Koshwal and Cliff Clinkscales need to contribute more. They are counting to much on freshmen to pull the load.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gift Giving

While we are all still in the gift giving spirit, I would like to give some of the Huskies a few presents.

Jerome Dyson. A mid-range shooting gallery. I’d like to see him up-fake his man and take the 12-footer. It would be a potent weapon in his already lethal game.

Jeff Adrien. A trampoline. If Adrien had great leaping ability, he would be a first round draft pick. It is the only hole in his game. Imagine the rebounding numbers he would put up if he played above the rim.

Hasheem Thabeet. A hook. At seven feet three inches and even taller when he raises his arm, a hook shot would be unstoppable. Two dribbles into the lane and a quick hook and Thabeet would be a legitimate offensive threat.

A.J. Price. A drivers license. If he would drive into the lane and collapse defenses more, the offense would run fluidly. He has been doing a great job but at times he dishes the ball before making a move on his defender. Take the ball and make the defense react.

Jim Calhoun. A longer leash. He needs to let his starters make some mistakes without pulling them from the game. In the games that they have struggled in, the young pups are thinking to much and not using their instinct. At times they look like they aren’t having fun.

Doug Wiggins. A dagger. He needs to be the man who drains the three when open. I just don’t feel like it is going to go in when it leaves his hands. If he gets a consistent outside shot then he will be a dominating player.

Craig Austrie. Some high octane fuel. He needs some jet fuel and turn up the tempo of his game. He is a great floor general and a good outside shooter but doesn’t run the break well and that’s not going to get you much playing time at UConn.

Stanley Robinson. Charity work. Robinson has turned his game around so far in this short season but the one flaw that has carried over is his poor free throw shooting. He has been doing much better but his numbers are still is horrendous and for a person who plays aggressive, he will be getting plenty of opportunities at the charity stripe.

Curtis Kelly. A smaller basketball. The ball seems to roll around the rim without dropping in for Kelly. If he finished off strong around the rim, then he would have supplanted himself as the second off the bench.

Gavin Edwards. Boxing gloves. Gavin needs to get more involved in boxing out and rebounding more. He has shown flourishes of post play but isn’t putting up the numbers in the rebounding department.

Jonathan Mandeldove. A watch. He needs more minutes. Its tough when you put effort into practice but get to ride the pine during games. He has talent but there are just to many bodies in front of him.

Donnell Beverly. A rifle. He has seen more minutes lately but hasn’t shown his shooting ability. I’d like to see his range more. He hasn’t caused any needless turnovers or put any off balance shots up but he needs to take the shot when left open.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Maine Event

This was a clinic and is a great early Christmas present but remember last year Uconn won 105 to 55 against Texas Southern before collapsing down the stretch. There were plenty of good signs. The outside shots were falling, they scored without their leader in points and they executed good inside sets against the zone. And they got to the line 38 times and got 27 points from that.

The guards did well. A.J. had a great game keeping the offense flowing. And with Dyson out, he asserted himself more into the offense. Not only did he shoot more but his 9 assists to 1 turnover were spectacular. He is now leading The Big East in assists to turnovers and assists a game. Wiggins could be a possible Rajon Rondo. Unlike last year, he has been able to maintain his dribbling while flying up the court. He has also been able to control his turnovers and increase his assists. If he continues his improvement then he could make it to the next level. Donnell Beverly did another good job of keeping the offense rolling. Though he didn’t look for his shot, he played solid defense.

What can you say about Stanley Robinson? Its great to see him have some feistiness to his game. As soon as he got that technical foul, he went into attack mode. He smothered rebounds, battled loose balls, gave up his body, sank jumpers, sent a double clutch dunk down, and played the most dominating game of ball UConn has seen in two years. Even if you take Stanley’s 32 points from the game, Uconn still would have won by 13 points. That’s a sign of great defense and he played that too, getting 3 blocks and 2 steals.

Adrien also played spirited, ending his day with 17 points and 13 boards. Is the double-double man back for good? We'll see. The only thing that he lacks is athleticism. He is tenacious on the boards but he doesn’t have an above the rim game.

Thabeet is a totally different player than the player who started the season. Brian Andre threw his huge frame against Thabeet all game and he stood in there and took it. Last year meatier players were able to push Thabeet out of position. So far this year, Thabeet has been able to take the pounding and get to the stripe while converting at a point guard like, 10 of 13.

Its great to see this team put together an effort like this but they had scored 105 points last year and I’m not going to get excited until they beat a team with comparable talent. For now they have their annual free vacation/trip to Florida and then the real challenge of conference play. Until then it’s a step in the right direction but not the leap needed to take them to where they want to go.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marcus Williams & Josh Boone Dish Out Some Toys In Brooklyn

Ray Allen's reverse dunk vs Pistons

Two of UConn's Best Clash

From The Detroit News:

Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton actually do like each other -- but you would never know it the way they go after each other on the court.

"It's a lot of fun," said Hamilton, who started at UConn the year after Allen left.

"I love it. It's an old Connecticut thing. He was the stepping stone for me at the school. It's always a great challenge."

Allen scored 24 points to Hamilton's 21. Combined, the two former Huskies made 17 of 24 shots -- pretty good marksmanship considering how aggressively they guarded each other.

They hacked and whacked on one another most of the game. It was not unlike watching Hamilton battle Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls.

"Nah, it's a little different," Hamilton said, smiling. "With Ray it's in good nature."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Please Calhoun, No Moore.

The Huskies finally put together a solid performance on all phases of the game. The defense was stout and switching on screens seemed to work well, though it could cause match up problems down the line. The offense, especially the fast break, was working on all cylinders. The guards moved the ball around, tossing it to the bigs and then out for open jumpers. They finished plays around the basket and battled on the boards, totaling 42 boards with 13 of them being offensive.

It was good to see the three ball being utilized. Teams are going to play zone until they show that they can make shots. Wiggins and Robinson had a great game from behind the arch, going a combined 3 for 7. When the three wasn’t working they took a few steps inside the soft zone and hit open jumpers. Dyson had a solid offensive effort going 9 for 17 for 23 points and a powerful slam. His most promising stat is zero turnovers. Robinson was all over the place, doing all the little things. He went 6 for 10, 15 points, 2 for 2 from the stripe, 3 offensive boards, 2 blocks and a steal. It’s amazing at where he is now and where he was at this point last year. Price also had a great game managing the team and ended with 9 assists to 2 turnovers, though he needs to get to the line.

The big men opposed their will. Adrien put together a performance we are used to seeing. His 14 boards and 12 points gave him a double-double he has been lacking and he finished strong when going to the basket. Hasheem rebounded well, finished plays with dunks and blocked 4 shots. Gavin quietly had a good game, going 2 for 2, but only had 1 rebound.

With Austrie out Beverly filled the role of back up point guard and did a solid job. He didn’t force the issue and took a few shots and took down 3 boards but his 2 assists to 2 turnovers isn’t point guard like. He’s a shifty player and will do nicely in Calhoun’s system.

The team is settling into their respective roles and are getting primed for Big East action. They have a couple of sub par teams left and then its time for the Huskies to step up and knock off a legitimate team. Until then its just more of the same.

Recent Highlights from Rudy Gay

Friday, December 14, 2007

Caron Butler with a spectacular reverse

Report Card

Since the Huskies are taking some time off from basketball to prepare for final exams, I thought it was time to give the young pups their report cards.

Jerome Dyson. B. He leads the team in points with 14.5. Dyson also rebounds, contributing with 5.1 a game. He is Uconn’s most consistent scorer but his assists, 23, to turnovers, 21, are lack luster. He needs to find his outside shot. He is ranked only 19th in Big East in scoring.

A.J. Price. B+. A.J. is ranked 3rd in assists to turnovers, 6th in assists, 7th in steals, and 27th in scoring and Calhoun is still riding his ass. He has the potential to be a special player. He needs to drive into lanes and dish the ball out more.

Jeff Adrien. C-. Adrien has not been playing like we are normally accustom to. He is tied for 17th with Casiem Drummond of Villanova at 7.9 rebounds a game. He leads the team in turnovers at 24 and Stanley Robinson has more blocks. He is also shooting only .613 from the free throw line.

Hasheem Thabeet. A-. He has taken a lot of negativity for his shaky start but he has shown drastic improvement. He dunks, makes free throws and battles on the boards. He ranks 8th in rebounding, 2nd in field goal percentage, 2nd in block shots behind Hamady Ndiaye of Rutgers, 6th in offensive rebounds, and 11th in defensive rebounds. He still has a ways to go but he is close to averaging a double-double.

Stanley Robinson. B+. He has been the most productive turnaround on the team. He is averaging 9.8 points a game, doubling his previous average and attacks the glass. He is ranked 8th in the league in blocked shots, which is amazing. The only thing that stopped Robinson from getting an A is his absolutely and ugly free throw percentage, .375. That’s repulsive.

Doug Wiggins. C+. There are games that he just disappears. His 6.1 average is below last years. His assists, 16, to turnovers, 6, are a major improvement. He uses his speed well but gets into trouble when fighting through screens. He also needs to be a more consistent outside shooter.

Craig Austrie. C. Coming into the season, Calhoun praised Austrie with his improvement but he hasn’t been much of a factor when on the court. His usually great three point shot is off, only shooting .294 from the arc. He has a great assists to turnover ratio, 13 to 6. He needs to push the ball up and be that three point threat.

Jim Calhoun. B. You can’t say that the old man has lost his passion. He is teetering over the coaching line and getting ejected from games. He is doing everything he can possibly do and hasn’t slowed down a bit. The only knock against him is that he never lets his team settle into the game.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Big East Power Rankings

1. Georgetown. They need to do better in scoring, just 15th in the league, but their defense tops the conference. They’ve played Michigan and Alabama and won both convincingly. We will see if this team is ready to dominate when they face Memphis on December 22nd. Will they be able to slow down the fast running Tigers?

2. Marquette. They destroyed Oklahoma State and lost to Duke but this team is 6th in the league in scoring and 9th in defense. They have a great field goal percentage of .493 a game. Their only weakness is their rebounding, ranking a lousy 13th.

3. Pittsburgh. They have played an easy schedule so far this season and it has skewed their stats but we will see if they are for real on December 20th when they play Duke. Pittsburg ranks 4th in scoring, 3rd in defense and 1st in rebounding margin. An encouraging sign for Pittsburg to take into legitimate competition is their 1st ranking in free throw shooting.

4. West Virginia. The only team of note that West Virginia has played is Tennessee and they lost by 2. They are possibly the most surprising team in the league but that seems to happen every year. They rank 1st in offense, 2nd in defense and 1st in field goal percentage.

5. Villanova. Losing to NC State isn’t a huge knock against this promising team. They are only 8th in scoring and 11th in defense but rebound very well with +8.1 a game.

6. Connecticut. They played the toughest schedule so far but lost against the two toughest opponents. They rank 7th in scoring but an uncharacteristic 12th in defense. They are only 11th in free throw percentage and 9th in field goal percentage a game.

7. Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech put them slightly behind the Huskies but they rank 5th in offense and 6th in defense, coming in first in three point shooting and second in rebounding margin. This team will scare anyone if they have their shot going.

8. Syracuse. This team has to much talent to lose to the likes of UMass and Rhode Island but they did. Its not their offense that is the problem, ranking 3rd, but their zone is Swiss cheese at the moment coming in dead last. They need to sure up this part of their game or they are prime to plummet.

9. Louisville. Where is the Final Four contender? Louisville has already lost to many games against far lesser talent. Who thought this team would lack offense, coming in at 11th? They bring it defensively ranking 4th. Their back court needs to get going coming in 14th in assists. Losing David Padgett for the season doesn’t help.

10. Seton Hall. Playing three overtime games already, winning two, has given Seton Hall fans near heart attacks but they have a way to score points, 83.7 a game but give up 78.6 a game. They need to find a way to play solid defense and cherish every possession.

11. Providence. They beat BC in overtime to then come out with back to back losses. This team is a mystery. They are middle of the pack in both offense and defense but are not attacking the boards like expected, coming in 11th in rebounding margin.

12. Rutgers. Smile Rutgers you're 6 and 2 and most likely peeked at 12th in the power rankings but they deserve credit even if they play below par teams. They are terrible on offense but bring it every game in defense, ranking 7th. They do house the best home court advantage in the league.

13. USF. After starting the season on a three game losing streak, they have turned it around winning the last seven. They are an average offensive and defensive team but rank 5th in the league in assists and can hit the three, ranking 2nd.

14. St. John’s. They have only played 5 games and rank 5th in defense but 13th in offense. They need to find a way to make outside shots.

15. Cincinnati. Losing 4 games already is terrible and having those come to the likes of Bowling Green and Belmont doesn’t help. They are dead last in offense and 10th in defense. They are also dead last in rebounding margin and steals.

16. DePaul. They are 12th in offense and 14th in defense, coming in last in scoring margin a -3.4. They can’t even make free throws only hitting .604 and letting teams shoot a league worst .456 a game. They can hit threes making .405 a game though but that won’t get you far.

UConn, Doubling the Post

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Garbage Night

Just when you thought UConn has solved most of its offensive woes, they put together an abysmal performance like this. The blame goes right down the line. The guards didn’t rotate the ball, shoot well, drive to the basket, or distribute the ball. The big men let easy passes slip through their hands, allow smaller men to wiggle inside for rebounding position and did not create easy second chance opportunities. Stanley Robinson shouldn’t be allowed to pass the basketball and Calhoun should allow his players to form some type of rhythm before yanking them from the game every three minutes.

It all boiled down to a hard to watch 69 to 60 UConn victory. A definite step backwards from their steady progression they had garnered from their past four games. It also seemed that the referees lost their whistles for most of this game, finding it just in time to eject Calhoun.

The perimeter defense is still a liability for this team and will eventually hurt them if they don’t defend the high screens and get a hand up to bother shots. For most of the night Northeastern had a better fast break than UConn. Dyson did have a spectacular block on a two on one break but overall the transition defense was not up to par.

Gavin had a good game and showed some grit and finesse to his game with a spin move in the paint. His progression has come a long way. Thabeet did a little of everything and finished off a play with a thunderous dunk. Kelly had a below average game, causing to many turnovers but finished with 8 points and 3 boards. There was a Mandeldove sighting but if you blinked then you missed him, logging in 1 minute. Adrien came through in the end and helped pull the Huskies ahead for good but only finished with 4 boards. Where is the double-double man?

The guards decided to take the day off ending the day 6 for 20. It was U-G-L-Y. Price wasn’t assertive and only shot the ball 4 times. Dyson did all he could posting 10 boards and 16 points. Wiggins only had 1 rebound in 12 minutes. Beverly played a little and didn’t seem overwhelmed. Austrie played solid minutes but wasn’t overly impressive though he did score one of UConn’s rare three pointers.

There is really nothing to take from this game but a thank the lord they didn’t blow it. They can go into the extended break, regroup and hopefully put together a team effort in their next showing, for this one can get tossed into the garbage with last nights leftovers.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shaq Blocked by Emeka Okafor

Just Out Of Reach

It was another close and hard fought game that slipped through UConn’s fingers. They came out of the gates with their best shooting performance of the year and gave Husky fans a glimpse of their potential. They played great, rotating the ball, finding open jump shots and converting. The one knock on the team is their play against high screens, going underneath and Gonzaga had an outstanding three point shooting night, 12-27 or 36 of their 85 points and another 21 coming from the stripe. Uconn did well at the line too, going 23 for 32 and made all their one and one situations, an encouraging sign.

One could say that the Huskies fell in love with the outside shooting and they came up cold in the second half and it is slightly true but they only scored 6 less points in the second half as they did in the first. They knew their shot wasn’t falling and didn’t shy away but also took it to the tin and was rewarded by fouls.

In UConn’s two losses there seems to be one player on the opposing team that steps up and single handedly carries their team. In the Memphis game Douglas-Roberts had a career night and in this game Jeremy Pargo went 7 for 13, 4 for 7 from 3-point range, 23 points and 5 assists.

The reason why UConn lost this game was not their second half outside shooting woes but because no one made a play when they needed it. They had the opportunities and didn’t convert. Elbow jumpers bounced, threes clanked and loose balls went the other way. The referees had questionable calls but that is to be expected and not a crutch UConn can use. But Uconn needs someone to step up.

Their two losses could have gone both ways and UConn could be sitting pretty with a few ranked victories on their resume. They are close and know it. If a few outside shots fall, loose balls bounce their way and obvious fouls get called, then they can beat anyone.

It seems Calhoun is tinkering with his backup power forwards, switching Edwards and Kelly’s roles of being second off the bench. Both contributed in their limited roll. The fast break wasn’t there today but that didn’t slow down the offense and they produced throughout the game. Its nice to see the dreaded five minute drought is a thing of the past.

Its obvious that they aren’t there yet but they have improved. They need to find the killer instinct and put a team away. They eventually need to knock a ranked team off and get some respectable road wins under their belt but there are signs in these games to be optimistic. They just need to find a go to player down the stretch.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top Ten UConn NBA Players

1. Caron Butler. The Lakers must be kicking themselves for giving up on Butler. He has emerged into a superstar and is ranked 11th in scoring. He attacks the glass and is now deadly from three point range, 27th in the league.

2. Ray Allen. Not only is he clutch right now, besides the two missed free throws late in the loss to Cleveland. His game has flourished with one on one coverage. It is surprising to see him ranked only 79th in three point shooting but he makes them when he needs to.

3. Emeka Okafor. He doesn’t dominate offensively but he still effects the other side of the ball. He ranks 5th in the league in rebounding at 12.2 a game with 58 out of his 113 being offensive. He is also ranked 13th in blocked shots at 2.84 a game.

4. Rudy Gay. If this ranking depended on highlight reels then Rudy would be first. He has supplied spectacular finishes. He has upped his offensive output, averaging 17.8 a game.

5. Ben Gordon. He is averaging more points then Rudy, at 18.1 a game, but he is in the game twice as long. He is in a bit of a scoring slump but his shot is coming back to him.

6. Rip Hamilton. Rip has been in a funk going 5 for 11, 4 for 16 and 6 for 16 in his last three games. He is still a great player, averaging 17.2 a game.

7. Charlie Villanueva. He’s been playing limited minutes and his production isn’t there yet, scoring 9.8 a game but Charlie is still a double-double threat.

8. Hilton Armstrong. He just can’t get off the bench, playing about 8 minutes a game.

9. Josh Boone. Same problem as Armstrong. He is barely on the court to record any significant stats.

10. Marcus Williams. He’s been in street clothes for most of the season and Kid is having an All-Star season. Marcus will get his minutes in slivers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Solid Step In The Right Direction

This wasn’t even a real game. Florida A&M had shot so many holes in their feet that it took 8 minutes for them to score a bucket. UConn ran up and down the court, scoring easy buckets and racking up points in sporadic spurts. Other than a little lull halfway through the first half, UConn kept the tempo high and pushed the ball. They ruthlessly attacked the glass and dominated the paint. Keeping in mind the talent they played against tonight, there are a few positives to take home.

Thabeet has never played two solid games like he has in these past two contests. He is dunking with power, his lay ups are going in and he attacked the glass. Florida A&M couldn’t hit a hula hoop and had to make their way into the paint for points. The big men feasted, blocking shots and grabbing defensive rebounds. Thabeet had his most dominating game of the season.

Stanley Robinson is here. This is four games in a row that he has made a contribution on both sides of the ball. He works hard underneath the basket and gets rewarded when running the break. His spectacular dunk, a Fathead in the making, capped off his night. He also popped some outside shots which is encouraging.

Wiggins looks like a different player. He is stronger and has total control of the ball. I didn’t know he had those kind of hops, gliding to the basket on a breakaway. His shot came towards the tail end of the game.

Its funny how the threes started falling in the closing minutes of a blowout. Maybe they are still nervous and playing tight at the beginning of the game. Whatever it is, UConn has come out of the gate cold from outside but has made up the difference with aggressive play and fast break points.

Dyson passed up several open threes for 15 footers. To be an NBA lottery pick, he needs to show consistent range and take those threes. He played solid though and didn’t need to push the issue, picking his spots in the offense.

A.J. was almost invisible on the court. He didn’t need to do much and the point guard's role is to make everyone else better and he did that. The half court offense again played solid and ran their sets. His and Austrie’s numbers might not reflect their night, but the break was well oiled and the offense played well.

UConn also played pressure defense and trapped. Thabeet blocked everything near him and Adrien grabbed every miss. Florida A&M still had to many open threes that clanked and getting over screens are still a problem but its hard to find a flaw in this dominating performance.

The only thing Uconn did poorly was shoot free throws. They only made 9 of 20. They can’t revert after having a couple of solid games from the charity stripe and need to bounce back with a better performance

Overall, this is a great confidence builder before they go into a great showdown versus a talented Gonzaga game this Saturday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

After gorging ourselves on second and third helpings, it is time to look back on this early season and give our thanks. Here is my list:

1. The emergence of A.J. Price. All Uconn fans should be breathing a sigh of relief that A.J. looks to have turned the corner on his game. At the beginning of the season, Calhoun proclaimed Dyson the best point guard on the team and benched Price. But since then, A.J. has solidified his spot at the point and has shot well while limiting his turnovers.

2. Half-court offense. Uconn has, so far, ran their half-court offense with fluidness. Though the outside shots are still clanking, last years dribbling out the shot-clock offense is behind them and now they are executing passes into and out of the post and rotating opposing defenses.

3. Dyson. He hasn’t shown his ‘A’ game yet but has put his stamp on each contest with his flashes to the basket and incredible dunks.

4. The fast break is back. They are looking to push the basketball up and are taking shots before the defense can settle which is staple Uconn basketball. It is a shame that Marcus Johnson left because he was a fantastic finisher on the break.

5. Thabeet’s free throw shooting. We know he will bring it on the defensive side but the question this year would be what he could do offensively and it hasn’t looked that pretty for the most part but with the emergence of a consistent free throw shooting, he should get points that way, while remaining in tight ball games down the stretch.

6. Wiggins role. Rashad Anderson‘s role of being an offensive threat off the bench has fallen onto Wiggins shoulders and he has flourished. He looks under control when pushing up the ball and has made shots when open.

7. Stanley Robinson’s effort. Sticks has attacked the offensive glass and has played stellar defense. He hasn’t shied away from his shot even when his shots weren’t falling. His willingness to fly after every loose ball is contagious. And he has put back to back to back solid performances.

8. Aggressive play. They have gone to the line an enormous amount so far this year and that is because of their relentless attack towards the rim. Teams that play up close defense are being called for bumps because Uconn is flying by them.

9. Early Schedule. The early games, though Kentucky never showed up, pits Uconn against equal or better talent early on. It is enjoyable as a fan and also a great meter to where the team is truly and fans should be excited.

10. Calhoun’s coaching. He has always put together solid squads and this roster is no different. They have a great balance of front court and back court talent. His teams always get better as the year goes on and with the Memphis game showing that Uconn is competitive against elite talent, this team will be interesting down the stretch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Might As Well Take Their Lunch Money Too

One could look at this game two ways that Uconn has turned the corner and the big men are dominating and the guards are pushing the tempo or Gardner-Webb was a very tired, worn out and over matched team. The answer lays somewhere in the middle of both. Gardner-Webb’s legs were tired and it affected their jump shooting, which is their only attack against the Huskies. Uconn didn’t rest on their laurels though and played Uconn basketball for 40 minutes. Their half court game flourished, they finished fast breaks and the big men took advantage down low.

Thabeet had his break out game and for the first time all year, he put himself in great position to receive an entry pass. Gardner-Webb fronted the big men and the guards finally grew confident enough to pass over them to get the ball in Thabeet’s hands. He finished off plays, battled on the boards and made free throws. This is a great sign but will this carry over to a team that has legitimate size? We’ll wait and see.

The fast break looked fantastic. They pushed the tempo and were rewarded with easy buckets. They limited costly turnovers and finished plays around the basket. The guards deserve credit for the effort they displayed on the court. The four guard rotation is beginning to form a rhythm.

Even against this team, Uconn still showed some of its warts. They aren’t a good team from the outside and the free throw shooting still looks below par. It will cost them against superior talent. But for now, Uconn fans must be happy that the team looks better, plays the game with speed and is running consistent half-court offense. But take this game for what it was, a team far superior against another that was undermanned and worn out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Look To The Future: Jamaal Coombs and Alex Oriakhi

Jamal Coombs is an early solid verbal commitment to Uconn. He’s only a sophomore from The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass. He’s 6-6, 185 pounds and plays the small forward position. Recruiting sophomores and even freshmen are now common practice in college recruiting. There are cases where coaches have scouted middle school players.

His running mate, Alex Oriakhi or The A-Train, a 6-8 220 pounder center has also committed. They both should already come to Uconn with the chemistry of playing together.

Watch the drive by #32, Coombs and the put back by #35, Alex Oriakhi.

#32 Jaamal Coombs & #35 A-Train

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jerome Dyson's Monster Slam

When A Loss Is A Win

The Uconn Huskies knew they had an insurmountable task when they took on 3rd ranked Memphis Tigers and after falling behind early by 15 points, they showed heart, tenacity and effort to work their way back. This loss does little to hurt the Huskies and should help them when the next rankings come out. Holding their own against a stacked Memphis team on a somewhat neutral ground is impressive and should give the young pups plenty of confidence moving on.

A.J. Price played an outstanding game with 23 points, on 8 for 14 shooting, 5 boards and 2 steals. His drives into the lane and dishes out fueled Uconn’s comeback and his outstanding free throw shooting, 7 for 9, kept the droughts away.

Thabeet doesn’t have a post game yet but he has found a way to score by getting to the line, going 7 for 7. That will be a huge asset down the stretch. He doesn’t have great hands and losses the grip on the ball when making his initial move towards the hoop. Great post players have patience, dribbling the ball and working themselves into a comfortable position to make a hook shot or jumper and Thabeet doesn’t have that yet. Emeka had this problem in his first year and relied on put backs for his points. He does need to dunk the ball. What’s with the lay ups?

Is it me or does Dicky V use the same commentary in the tournament at The Garden. Does he not know that people are going to see all the games? How many cupcake references was he going to use?

What happened to Adrien down the stretch? Gavin Edwards took over and that was when Memphis pulled away. He had an off game, only coming down with 1 rebound, 6 turnovers, 0 for 4 from the stripe, ending with only 6 points. If Uconn had his average game this would have been an upset in the making.

The only constant through the first five games is that Uconn is getting fouled at an exorbitant rate and they are an improved team in converting those opportunities into points. 27 of 38 attempts were splashed in the Memphis game with most of those calls coming in the first half. The referees started keeping their whistles from their mouths in the second half on blatant fouls.

Calhoun should be happy with the effort of Stanley Robinson, who had back to back great games, finishing with 9 points, 2 offensive rebounds, two blocks and a stout defensive game. He had to defend the faster guards of Rose and Douglas-Roberts and did a great job hustling for loose balls and playing an aggressive game.

Uconn fans need to realize that it took a career game from Douglas-Roberts to pull this game out. Some of those shots he made were simply impossible to defend.

Uconn’s next two games, Gardner-Webb on Thursday and Florida A&M on Monday, will be get right games before they head into a big game against Gonzaga. They don’t need a lapse in effort or loss of confidence that they gained by hanging with a national championship contender. They need to take this loss as a win and know that the hard work is paying off.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Moving On

Even though Gardner-Webb played their butts off, Uconn had the talent. They both traded jabs early on but when Thabeet’s blocks transitioned into easy fast break points, the Huskies laid a haymaker that sent Gardner-Webb to the canvas. It didn’t help Gardner-Webb that the referees played the game tight in the first half. The Runnin’ Bulldogs had to go so deep down their bench that they had to wake up a bleached haired kid, Matt French, and to send him in and he played well.

The Huskies offense looked a bit erratic at times but they limited their bad passing. They moved the ball around, dumped it into the post, kicked it back out and looked for the open man. Gardner-Webb doubled on any post player and the guards needed to make them pay and they did. Thabeet put his stamp on the game defensively and grabbed 10 boards but wasn’t aggressive offensively only attempting one shot, and making 4 for 6 from the line is a great sign.

Stanley Robinson is the key to this team and with the departure of Marcus a lot falls on his shoulders. His outside shot wasn’t going early, so he worked inside grabbing boards, finishing with 10, 5 offensive and found points that way. He never shied away from his shot though and eventually made a couple to sustain a run. He needs to make his free throws going 0 for 3, missing key one and one situations.

The most impressive player so far this season is Curtis Kelly. He looks slender, quicker and in shape. He didn’t light it up in his starting debut only scoring 1 point but he has all the tangibles to be a great player.

The guards played well and Wiggins had a great game. He needs to be our gunner, the next Rashad Anderson, and he took a step forward tonight going 4 for 8 and 13 points. He shot the three well and stretched the defense. But the line of the night goes to A.J. Price, 6 for 11, 18 points, and 6 boards Dyson’s night didn’t go as well but just when you think he’s disappeared, he finishes a break with a thunderous slam, slamming the door shut and turning out the lights. Austrie filled in reserve well and wasn’t looking for his shot.

Thabeet had an average game, considering that he was doubled every time he touched it in the post. Gardner-Webb fronted Thabeet and the guards didn’t attempt the risky pass to the 7 foot 3 big man. He did what he does best and that is to rebound and put back, intimidate in the paint and make free throws. He needs to move more when the ball is in the air, sliding into position for the rebound.

Overall Uconn played well, giving up a little defensively down the stretch but offensively put up points and limited turnovers. Time to put this game behind them and move on to Memphis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Parody Should Help UConn

This year’s early schedule gives Uconn two strong teams to match up against and should tell Calhoun what his young team needs to work on. It also gives them the opportunity to get a few quality wins early on to put on their resume. The winner of the Oklahoma/Memphis game, which should be a good one, will play the Uconn/Gardner-Webb winner on Friday.

After that Uconn faces Gardner-Webb again and Florida A&M before taking on 14th ranked Gonzaga but after that its Northeastern, Quinnipiac, Maine, Central Florida before heading into Big East Play in early January. Uconn has a chance to knock out a top 3 seeded Memphis, if they win or Gonzaga. Any win against one of those opponents should catapult them into a solid mid-teens ranking.

Watching the first couple of games around the country, it looks like parody has struck the top 25. Syracuse played a close one, USC looked like a Mayo only sandwich and Davidson played North Carolina tough.

For Uconn’s sake, they would like to play Memphis instead of Oklahoma because the loss wouldn’t hurt them as much and an upset would give them a huge leap towards postseason play. In the AP poll, Gardner-Webb is ranked higher than Oklahoma.

Memphis is a guard stacked team, rotating six. The stars of the show are Derrick Rose, a stunning freshman, who scored 38 points in his first two games and Chris Douglas-Roberts, a 6-6 junior, a scoring machine totaling 47 points in his two games. If Uconn and Memphis wins their respected games, it should be a great game to watch. These next two games, if Uconn wins the first one, should tell us more about what this team’s identity is. Hopefully Uconn comes out to play.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Double Trouble

Uconn’s next opponent is Gardner-Web and the second one after that? Yep, Gardner-Web. This little team that could took out a ranked team and did it convincingly, only trailing by 7 points, before taking out the Wild Cats, 84 to 68. They did it with a combination of three-point shooting, 8 for 17, rebounding 37 boards and free throw shooting, 24 for 31. They have a duo in Thomas Sanders, a 6-3 forward and a crafty guard in Grayson Flittner. They combined for 13-25 for 43 points, 13 of those from the line and 4-8 from three.

Uconn should have their way inside against Gardner’s smaller front court. Auryn McMillan, a 6-8 235 center, is not a threat to score but attacks the boards and makes free throws. The major task falls on the Robinson, the lone small forward on the team. He’ll have to stay with Sanders and keep near his shooting hand. That kid can light it up.

Gardner-Webb uses a three guard rotation with Flittner getting most of the time, while Linn and Siddle share the other spot. Uconn is using a much deeper bench with a four guard rotation and should have the upper hand.

Good things never happen when you play a team twice. That second go around usually falls in favor of the loser. They have seen their mistakes and know what to correct. Uconn needs to focus on the positives from the Buffalo game and come out confident. They have the superior talent and should leave with two victories instead of a meeting with a ranked Kentucky team.

Uconn is floating around 28th in the polls, an early Kentucky loss would have put them further back but with the slipping of Kentucky and USC, Uconn stands to sneak into the top 25. If they take care of business.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fool Me Once

It’s been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first two games of the season. Uconn stumbled out of the gates in the first game and then came out like gang busters in the second one. From what we learned during last year’s early schedule and the subsequent plummet into mediocrity shortly after, we can only take these games with a grain of salt. It’s to early to anoint Robinson yet, say that A.J.’s back and that the defense is fixed.

It was great to see A.J. take charge, initiate the offense and score 24 points. The 10 for 12 from the line was stellar. It was a drastic improvement from the Morgan State game. He still needs to look more for his teammates. Adrien had more assists with 5.

Robinson had an Indiana type game, scrapping his way inside for 13 boards. He’s shied away from three point range, only shooting 1, but blocked 6 shots. He needs to reproduce this impact into the next game.

There are only a few stats that can be carried over into Big East play, three point shooting, free throws and three point defense. Any other stat gets distorted because of playing inferior talent. On those three stats, Uconn is 28.75 in 3-point shooting, 70.15 shooting free throws and 32.15 in 3-point defense. There’s room for improvement.

It’s way to early to judge this team and with watching a few ranked teams falter at the start, Uconn’s sputtering start still produced wins and with this year’s schedule, Uconn will be tested early.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Of The Same

Uconn 69 Morgan State 65

The first game of the season looked like UConn’s last game of the year. They had worked hard earning a marginal lead and watched as the offense sputtered for 5 points in 7 and a half minutes. From the 16:48 to 9:14 mark of the second half, they couldn’t finish fast breaks, stop the opposing team from getting 5 offensive boards, missed 6 shots, and gave up 3 threes.

Morgan State, projected to finish 5th in their conference, attempted 71 shots compared to Uconn’s 49. UConn’s big men couldn’t rebound, the guards didn’t defend the perimeter and the team couldn’t find a jump shot.

Curtis Kelly was a bright spot. He deserves an applause for the work from the line, going 7 for 7, pulling down 7 boards and making 3 for 6 from the field. While Thabeet struggled with 3 points and only 7 boards, never being a factor in the game. Adrien had a solid night with 12 points and 7 boards but was dominated inside by Coly, who had 15 boards with 8 being offensive.

Dyson shot well but played sloppy defense, committing 4 personal fouls but made his free throws and some clutch shots down the stretch. Price had a lackluster night with 5 points, 9 dishes, 3 turnovers and 3 steals. He needs to be more assertive, 4 field goals in the game is not going to cut it, and he needs to make a play during these droughts. Doug Wiggins did well in reserve, making a crucial three, his only, to pull away. He didn’t turn the ball over and made free throw shots to seal the game. Austrie had a good line with 8 points on 3 for 5 shooting, 5 boards, 1 dish, 1 turnover and 1 steal.

Stanley Robinson didn’t make a shot and had 5 turnovers. Calhoun should give Robinson an offensive foul get out to jail card. Let him drive to the hoop without fear. Once he feels his shot isn’t there, he starts turning the ball over. His offense feels out of rhythm and needs to let the game come to him.

This game, which should have been a confidence booster, has now put a seedling of doubt into Husky Nation. Are they the same team as last year? A team that shot the ball poorly, couldn’t make free throws and turned the ball over way to much or are they more experienced and ready to take the next step. Let’s cross our fingers.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Marcus Johnson Leaves

Wow. This is an utter surprise. Marcus Johnson has asked permission to talk to other schools. His time here at Uconn has been anything but frustrating for him. He could never find his role on the team. He shined when on the fast break but never found the confidence in his jumper and never felt comfortable in the offense.

With his departure, Uconn is stuck with only one small forward which is a big problem. This forces Calhoun to either go big or go small when Robinson is on the bench. Shutting down teams that have two or more small forwards on a team, like Louisville, are now going to give Uconn a tougher time matching up.

Johnson had sat out the Bryant game with an elbow injury and was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Marcus will finish out the fall semester at Uconn but will no longer be a member of the team. There must be more to this story. If he had trepidations about his willingness to be a member of this squad, then he would have pulled the trigger earlier in the summer. Something happened in October practice or the elbow injury is more severe then imagined.

Calhoun’s response to Marcus’s departure, “Marcus came to see me today and told me that he felt it was in his best interests to find another school to attend and to play basketball. I know he has a desire to maximize his playing time and also to get closer to home, so he felt this was the best decision for him at this time. I wish him nothing but the best as a person and as a basketball player.”

Marcus will do better without being under the microscope and the ire of Calhoun. Its hard to produce and be effective when you get your minutes in crumbs. He’ll find a place closer to home and contribute more to a team then he will this year or next. We wish him the best of luck.

Ray Allen Game Winner!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

WD 40 Anyone?

It wasn’t pretty and it was still some of the same as last year. They couldn’t stop the high screen, didn’t make their free throws, shot the ball poorly, didn’t block out and had more turnovers than assists. The lessons learned from last year can be applied here that it is hard to judge what this team is when playing inferior talent. We know that they won’t get 27 offensive boards versus Big East teams.

The one glaring statistic is the field goal percentage. The guards shot 17 for 40. Not good, in fact horrible. Lets hope that this is just rust because if the guards can’t shoot then this is going to be a rough season. The big men did well but that stat is inflated because of the numerous put backs from the offensive glass that won’t happen with big boy competition.

Free throws, free throws, free throws. What is it about this team that makes them poor from the line? Marcus Johnson needs to step it up going 1 for 5. That’s worse than his .500 year long average last year. Adrien went 2 for 5, Robinson 0 for 1 and Hasheem went 1 for 3. But the most striking is Dyson’s 1 for 2. Its not the fact that he missed one but that he only went to the line once. He needs to drive and initiate contact. He should get to the stripe at least six to ten times a game.

The Swiss cheese defense let the Assumption get anything they wanted, shooting 40% from the field and 39% from the arch. Not good at all. The help defense needs improvement and the they haven’t solved the basic pick play yet, which gave them trouble last year.

A.J. showed up and saved this team, coming off the bench and demonstrated his overall game going 6 for 11 shooting, 9 boards, 22 points, 7 dishes, 1 turnover, 3 steals and a perfect 9 for 9 from the stripe. That’s a line and all that while coming off the bench for only 25 minutes. Contrast that to Dyson’s, ‘the best point guard on the team’, 7 for 15 shooting, 4 boards, 18 points, 2 dishes, 5 turnovers, 2 blocks, 5 steals and 1 for 2 from the stripe. Let’s put this mad point guard experiment to rest, A.J. is the point guard for this team.

Let’s hope this is just rust and that they will show another side of their game in the next couple of games because if they don’t shoot better and play a team defense then they better have their life jackets on. It’s a long way down the Big East standings. I don’t know what was worse, Uconn’s game or having to pay for it and watching it on my computer. It’s a wash.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Point Is Priceless

Where did A.J. Price go? If you know, please tell us. After glancing over the starting lineup for tonight’s game there was one glaring omission, Price. Craig Austrie, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Hasheem Thabeet. Is it because A.J. is still hampered by an injury or has Austrie supplanted the point guard role? But then Calhoun says that Jerome is the best point guard on the team and Craig Austrie is a multi-purpose guard. Austrie has the knack of putting players in comfortable positions and seems more suited to run the point and Dyson’s slashing and shooting skills lend more to having the offense go through him. I hope this experiment works.

A.J. must have had a horrible October. Here is a kid whose season has been riddled with a near death illness, a robbery and a gigantic lack of confidence. Calhoun praised him, saying in that 2005 season where 5 players went in the first two rounds, that A.J. was probably the most talented on the squad.

Austrie did well last year. He shot the ball well and ran the point with efficiency but lacked the speed. Maybe Calhoun noticed a little bounce in his step during practice and is rewarding him with a look see but A.J. needs to be part of this team if they are going to take the next step.

So here comes the opening game of the new season. Get your popcorn, beer and head to the office where you can watch your favorite team on the computer. It just doesn’t suite sports on a small screen and by yourself. Not only that but they want you to pay for it. They’re making the exhibition games, pay-per-view. Great! Please put the games back on the television.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Know Your Enemy: Gonzaga

Gonzaga will be Uconn’s first test of the season on a December 1st meeting. The Zags had a tough time last year with the Heytvelt and Davis suspensions due to the famous mushroom incident. This team is an offensive juggernaut, ranking 19th in the NCAA last season at 78.5 a game. What they have in offensive prowess, they lack in defensive tenacity ranking in a paltry 204th in the country at 70.1 a game.

Led by Josh Heytvelt, 15.5 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. The job to stopping this power forward rests on Adrien and the role players to keep him from enforcing his will upon the boards. They must keep him under control.

Thabeet won’t be the only big man on the court. Gonzaga recruited Robert Sacre, a 7-footer, who should pose a threat down low. This will be Thabeet’s first real challenge of the year and should give us a good look at how Thabeet’s progression has come along.

The guards have their hands full keeping Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin under control. With the departure of Derek Raivio and his 18 points, 3.1 boards, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals, leaves a big hole to fill and these two talented players should step up.

The X-factor should be on junior college transfer Ira Brown, a 25 year old player, who played five years of minor league baseball, so he is a gifted athlete. He has average size but his strength and versatility should create mismatches.

This is as well rounded a team that Uconn will face this year, other than Georgetown, Indiana and Louisville. They have depth with role players, such as Micah Downs, a forward with 8.1 points a game and 3.7 boards and Abdullahi Kuso, a hard worker and battler underneath. They have talented freshmen in Austin Daye, a possible big time scorer and afore mentioned Robert Sacre.

This match-up will be strength against strength, Uconn’s defense versus the Zag’s offense. If their two strength’s negate each other, then the key to winning falls on the weaknesses of Uconn’s offense versus the Zag’s defense.

Dyson, Price and Robinson must have big time games and show improvement in their offensive outputs from last year. If Uconn scores 70 points, they should get the win, which they did only once in the last 11 games. Adrien will give you his double-double and Thabeet will anchor the inside and whatever he gives offensively will be a bonus.

This isn’t a David versus Goliath match-up and one wouldn’t be hallucinating if Uconn pulls off the upset. They need to play a great team defense and create easy buckets with offensive rebounds and the fast break. If they get that done, then they’ll get that first notch on their postseason resume.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Not So Fast

Even though Calhoun has Dyson tinkering around at point during practice, it doesn’t mean that A.J. is going to lose the job and here are my top reasons why.

1. Jerome is a shooting guard, has outstanding range and runs the baseline with speed. His best asset would be to run around screens and pop shots or drive to the rim.

2. 65 assists to 66 turnovers. Not the numbers a point guard should have. A.J.’s numbers are 113 assists to 63 turnovers.

4. Running the team of Jerome, Johnson, Robinson, Adrien and Thabeet leaves two of the unproven players of Robinson and Johnson on the floor together. Until they prove to be assertive and effective, play only one at a time.

5. This group combined for 269 turnovers with only 158 assists. They need a setup man.

6. Calhoun let Ben Gordon run the show and played big inside. This team can change from three guard system to a three forward system easily. That versatility will help the defense when traveling through The Big East.

7. A.J. is still a great talent. Calhoun is using this hard line with him hoping to light a fire under his ass.

8. Calhoun recruited a point guard. A.J. knows that his minutes could slip and should lay it all out.

9. Craig Austrie has improved. Calhoun has praised his back-up point-man and knows his 27 turnovers, a guard low on the team, has proven his worth. If the point is going any place it will go to Austrie not Dyson.

10. A.J. might not be the next super-fancy point guard out there but with improvement, he can lead this team through The Big Dance.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Not Toughness They're Lacking

Calhoun is stressing toughness in his team. That wasn’t the knock against them last year. The toughness was there. Wiggins taking a hard fall and bruising his hip, Dyson chipping his tooth on the court and playing through it and the bruising playing style of Jeff Adrien. The toughness is there it’s the cashing in that they lack. They went to the free throw line 253 more times than their opponents but only made 104 more free throws in those games.

They’ve got to improve at the charity stripe if they are going to utilize the size advantage that they possess. Its been the Huskies Achilles heel for the past decade. They’ve won championships with a team with poor free throw shooting but those teams had the likes of Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor on them. Not that Jerome and Thabeet can’t match the talent of those two but they’re not there yet.

The poor free throw shooting goes right down the board starting with Adrien (59%), then Price (69%), Johnson (50%), Dyson (72%), Robinson (66%) and Thabeet (51%). The guards need to get their numbers into the mid-eighties, the forwards into the high seventies and the big men into the low seventies. No 60’s and definitely no 50’s.

So if Calhoun wants to have the toughest sons of a bitches out there, he better have them work on making it pay off.

Going Big?

During practice Calhoun put Dyson on the point and played around with a bigger line up. It’s an interesting look and Jerome did have 65 assists last year. Though the big team would help out in rebounding, the big size would slow the game down and Calhoun was stressing the run game which was lacking last year. There will be times when Uconn will be tested by size, Georgetown, Indiana and Providence come to mind, but a change in philosophy for the team doesn’t seem likely.

Price limped out of practice with a hurt ankle. He has shown improvement, shooting the ball better and getting everyone involved. This team is going to need Price in a big way. If he finds his outside range, it should open up the entry passes to the big men down low. To many times last year teams played off the outside shots and clogged the passing lanes. Hopefully the injury isn’t serious.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Big East Power Rankings

1. Georgetown. Losing Jeff Green and his 14.3 points per game, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists will hurt the Hoyas but they still have a veteran group led by Roy Hibbert. Until they are dethroned, they deserve top billing. With two promising freshman point guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright and two solid starters Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace, the front court looks solid. For this team to reach the Final Four again, they will need Patrick Ewing Jr. and Vernon Macklin to step up and contribute more.

2. Louisville. With almost every starter returning except Brandon Jenkins, the Louisville Cardinals look primed to take the crown from Georgetown. Not many teams can match their forwards of Juan Palacios and Terrence Williams but for this team to move into the top spot, they need Derrick Caracter to stay healthy.

3. Marquette. Dominic James is by far the best guard in The Big East and with all his running mates returning, it wouldn’t be surprising if they take the top spot when all is said and done. They are solid at the forward position but lack a strong inside presence which could come back and haunt them. The X factor on this team is Wesley Matthews. If he can put together a solid year then this team will take the next step forward.

4.Connecticut. With every player returning, this team should be much improved. Jerome Dyson should mature and Thabeet should anchor a already solid defensive unit. The key to their success will be a consistent field goal percentage and making free throws.

5. Pittsburgh. They are ranked higher in national rankings than Connecticut but they lost to much last year. With the losses of Aaron Gray, Antonio Graves and Levon Kendall, Pittsburgh needs to rely on Levance Fields, Dejaun Blair, Mike Cook and Ronald Ramon to carry this team. They lack a legitimate post player and it could hurt in rebounding.

6. Syracuse. They have a heralded incoming class but they are still unproven and with only Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins the only returning starters, Syracuse might have a few early bumps in the road. Donte Green will make an immediate impact but it is to early to give him the "Melo" status. They will be dangerous come February.

7. Providence. They have good size and speed and only lost Herbert Hill. Sharaud Curry and Weyinimi Efejuku are the real deal and should help solidify the back court while Geoff McDermott will hold down the middle. Watch out for Dwain Williams. He is an emerging star.

8. Villanova. They lost to much last year with the departures of Curtis Sumpter, Mike Nardi and Will Sheridan but with Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham making a name for themselves last year, this team should find a way into The Big Dance. Corey Fisher should help with the scoring load and they are going to need all the help they can get.

9. West Virginia. Losing Frank Young might hurt this team more then imagined. With the extra burden placed on Darris Nichols and Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff to produce might be to much. But the one determining factor is the lack of size other then Jamie Smalligan, a 7-footer who likes to shoot threes. They came in 15th in rebounding margin last year and if they don't strike gold with incoming freshman John Flowers then this team will struggle.

10. Seton Hall. With Eugene Harvey and Brian Laing returning, this team looks poised to move up the rankings but with such a small team, the burden of holding the front court down falls on the shoulders of freshman Mike Davis. If he is what I think he is then this team should create a few upsets this year.

11. Cincinnati. Deonta Vaughn should get some help Alvin Mitchell and Jamual Warren. Incoming freshman Anthony McClain should make an immediate difference in their defense which was poor last year. If their freshman contribute then they should be respectable.

12. Notre Dame. With Russell Carter leaving, Notre Dame will rely on Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody to score more and if freshman Kyle Mcalarney steps up then this team should bounce back. But there are to many ifs.

13. St. Johns. There are to many questions on this team to move them up the rankings, like where is the scoring coming from? With to much talent leaving, the load will fall on Eugene Lawrences and Anthony Mason’s shoulders. No one knows what to expect from this team or what Justin Burrell will do.

14. De Paul. Losing Wilson Chandler and Sammy Mejia will hurt De Paul to much though Draelon Burns is a solid player. There are to many missing parts to make this team a legitimate threat.

15. South Florida. Kentrell Gransberry is a beast, averaging a double-double last year, but they just don’t have enough fire power to compete.

16. Rutgers. They have a promising freshman in Corey Chandler but the only way Rutgers will get out of The Big East cellar is if JR Inman steps up and carries this team.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lil Wayne, Big Problem

All eyes will be on Jerome Dyson this year. He came on during the second half of the year and should be the go to player when the game is on the line. A little word to the wise to the person in control of the sound system at Gampel or the Civic Center, don’t play Lil Wayne. Jerome came in dead last in the 5k Husky Run. And the Culprit? Listening to Lil Wayne songs on his Ipod. This team will only go as far as Jerome wants to take them. He needs to be up front and vocal this year.

Another sign that things aren’t starting well for the team. Doug Wiggins is still serving his already three week suspension from the team locker room for a “pattern of behavior”. He does seem sorry saying, “It was just dumb, stupid stuff, little stuff that never should have happened in the first place. I'm grateful that I still get an opportunity to come to practice and still be with the team.”

Marcus Johnson injured himself during First Night. It doesn’t look that serious but is going to put him out of several practices. If Marcus is having trouble dunking then its going to be a long year for him. On another injury update, Mandeldove looks healed up and ready to go.

With practice starting up and First Night now behind them, this team needs to gel, work extremely hard on consistent jump shooting and work on the fast break. This isn’t the Lil East that this team will be battling through, so please watch what your blaring through the loud speakers during games.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Role Players

Their job isn’t sexy. In fact at times they are unnoticed and invisible while on the court but the role players on a team are what takes a team to the next level. Most of the time they are asked to come in for a player in foul trouble, give a starter a breather or to substitute while Calhoun can do some persuasive coaching from the bench. Whether it is to block out, secure the ball or play defense, the role players are a pivotal piece to any successful team.

Uconn’s three role players, Gavin Edwards, Jonathan Mandeldove and Curtis Kelly are young and prime to make a bigger contribution to the team next year. They have made an emphasis on bulking up this year and with a year under their belt, they shouldn’t be overwhelmed with the physicality of The Big East. The only problem is that there isn’t enough minutes in a game to give all three enough game time to grow. So the battle for minutes will be fought for during practice and once given the opportunity they must seize it.

As of last year the depth chart seemed fixed with Kelly getting the most minutes while Gavin and Mandeldove shared the scraps. But that isn’t always set in stone. With the motivation of playing time fueling their off season, these players should be ready to take the next step.

Jonathan Mandeldove: At 6-11 and 220 pounds, he is a bit lanky but his long reach and wingspan is reminiscent of Hilton Armstrong in his first two years. Coming from Hargrave Military Academy, Jonathan is a very coachable player and should thrive in this system. Mandeldove has potential to be a starter one day but as of today he is looking up the depth chart.

Gavin Edwards: He is a more physical athlete than Mandeldove. Though he is only 6-9, his 230 pound frame still has room to bulk up. His father was a defensive end for four NFL teams, so Gavin has the genes to become a very physical player. He is not a shot blocking threat yet like his other role players but he does like to mix it up down low and has great footwork. Towards the end of the year, Gavin had cemented the number two role player off the bench.

Curtis Kelly: He probably has the most potential of the three players with a combination of size and speed. He has an offensive game that the others lack and has the ability to block shots. At times he looked confused but that is expected for a freshman. This year, he should know what is expected of him and thrive in the first man off the bench role. The one glaring weakness to his game is his free throw shooting. Its going to be scary when the switch clicks on Kelly’s game because he has all the tools to become an elite forward.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Holy Cross Batman!

Ralph Willard, head coach of Holy Cross, is spitting mad. He pointed the finger at Calhoun, charging him with going to the Gazelle Group, in charge of the Coaching Versus Cancer Tournament, and asked them to take Holy Cross off the Storrs regional. Instead Uconn is playing Buffalo.

Calhoun admitted not wanting to play Holy Cross but denied taking them off the tournament. He said, “We took teams like that, like Holy Cross, and said we’d rather play Buffalo. We didn’t demand it. Those are the kind of teams that if you aren’t ready can get your confidence down pretty quick. We now have said we have no problem with Holy Cross coming here.”

The message boards are afire with Calhoun afraid to play Holy Cross. The truth isn't always black and white. The first few games are exhibition, period. These games are for seeing your team in action without the threat of losing their confidence with an early loss.

Holy Cross did get the short end of the stick. They wanted to be part of the tournament but with being a small school, they didn't want the reschedualing because it conflicted with the schools mid-terms and they declined.

Calhoun has to walk a fine line with this team. His main goal is to get these kids into The Big Dance and an early loss to Holy Cross would be a huge setback to overcome. So is Calhoun afraid to play Holy Cross? Probably, but that is a good thing for Holy Cross. It shows they have a good enough team to compete with this enigma of a Husky team.

Remember this is big money basketball. Calhoun can not have the debacle of a year ago. This team must compete in the Big East this year because with the rise of Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Providence and the usual powerhouses, it makes it hard for this young team to remain afloat in the standings while learning on the fly.

Be it as it may, Calhoun has the right to tweak his schedule. He must be applauded for what he has done and doing for the battle against cancer and in the end that is what this little tournament is about, not the silly bickering of Holy Cross. But I’d put a hundred down that they’ll be on the schedule next year.